I’m just settling into a writing session here at my dining room table and it’s very encouraging to hear you say that. And trust me, I confuse myself sometimes with the various cast members. Have I mentioned what color eyes this person has or is that just in my mind or it is based on some fan art I saw or official art I commissioned? I go round and round sometimes.
Sure as a writer, I think most of us would like our characters to be nuanced, but when it comes down to it, I think with a cast of 40+ people, I felt I just needed for every main NPC to have a primary character trait and just lean into that. DG is snarky. Tress is ambitious. Crook is sketchy and impulsive. Synergy is thoughtful. Friendzone is oppressively supportive.
With Zarlor, which is a RPG gaming session in Fun and Games, I wanted pretty much every line of dialogue to be easily matched to the speaker, even if there wasn’t a tag. Now, I had to use tags most of the time, just because with 7+ people all talking with each other and over each other, it could be confusing without them, but when DG or Crook or Stoic or Tress says something, I feel satisfied when I think, "Yep I think people will internally think “that’s Stoic talking” before they each the “Stoic said” tag.
If I had any advice, I’d say DON’T introduce 40+ characters, it’s madness but if you do, I wouldn’t be afraid to just keep doubling down on their primary traits. I think that’s preferable to having readers not be able to remember who’s who. A well-rounded character can be very boring and forgettable whereas a character with well-established traits can have the reader going, “Oh no, Crook is drunk and angry and I just know jumping these thugs in the alley is going horribly wrong.”