That being said, just randomly rolling stuff on a table does help to a degree, atleast as a starting point. Although sometimes you might not get exactly what you want, or it might lead you down a different path than you originally anticipated.
Just lately I was asked to take part in a play by post. I wrote up a brief description of my character in the forum, and was given the following feedback. "This is the best character portrait, ever." - The DM.
Here's the background.
Harnoth grew up an orphan on the streets of Port Tenobar. At an early age his family was murdered by the local guard. The “incident” was covered up, and poor Harnoth was left to fend for himself. Having had enough of the big city, Harnoth kept a wary ear to tavern doors, in hopes of finding a way out. By a stroke of luck, he bumped into a rather portly druid who was leaving for parts unknown. The druid was part of an order that kept an eye on nature, and the balance in the world. Harnoth grew to love their ways, and their god Ordana. Word came that a forest in the north was being overrun by demonic evil, and the druid’s in Harnoth’s company up and left in the middle of the night. A note left by his rucksack, left the words that cross his mind on a daily basis. “Go out and find your calling, we will meet again, Ordana be with you”.
So for the sake of FUN! and something to write about I think what I'm going to do is start writing up some character backgrounds, you can feel free to use them if you like, turn them into a character you might want to play, or maybe an NPC.
Note: To keep it open ended when writing about "Gods" I will put the following "So and so is a follower of a Chaotic God". You can then fill in with appropriate god. Same goes for towns & dwellings, etc.
So without further ado.
Childebert Bophin (Female Halfling)
Regardless of how much has been written about the Halflings love of cooking, Childebert is god awful at it! She could burn water! Because of this minor problem with cooking Childebert learned to work in the wood mill growing up. As time went out she became extremely strong! Easily lifting twice the weight most hobbits could. She has spent many years as a guard for the small halfling village, and on occasion she's acted as the police force as well. For the most part the only issues that have cropped up are minor disagreements about the taste of cheese or ale. Another trait that is usually assumed when you see a halfling is the ability to break into locked boxes, and sneak. Childebert isn't quite comfortable with those types of halfling traits, and is more happy and capable with a large hand axe and shield.
Dexel Markin (Human Male Magic User - )
Dexel is the closet human version of the "Bumbling wizard" that you can get. In fact if there was a medieval dictionary, his picture would be in it beside "bumbling". He really means well, but because of his lack of wisdom, and adventure prowess he fails more often than he succeeds. In the true human spirit however, he never gives up! More often than not he will suggest the entirely wrong course of action, or hand a potion to someone thinking that its a healing potion, when in fact it's more probably poison. Dexel's only saving grace is that he is insanely funny, and a wonderful person to be around. Because of this the crew that adventures with him, tends to put up with his rather odd antics.
Tathaln Valxidor (Female Elf)
Along time ago Tathaln's family were nobles in the forest realm of the Elves. Her great uncle practiced necromancy in secret, his mind was twisted. Because of this, it was eventually found out. Ever since then the entire family has been shamed. In some cases family members self exiled. Tathaln has made it her mission to root out all necromantic evil, and in doing so she hopes to redeem her family.