Research Questions for Developing a Persona

compiled by Baron Modar Neznanich

SCA Persona: The fictional person you wish to have been, had you lived some time prior to 1600 A.D.
Also referred to as your persona story, it involves your SCA name and the history/background you create.

Many people want to develop a persona but are unsure where to begin. What information does one need to obtain to have a good persona story?
Following are a series of questions collected from various sources designed to show what information most people consider needs to collect to
develop a full fleshed-out persona. These questions are by no means all-inclusive, but hopefully will present at least a good starting point.

[Also see: Choosing an SCA Name & Creating a Heraldic Device]

If you want to grade yourself on how complete your persona story is, give yourself 2 points for each question you can answer,
then consult the scoring charts at the end of the article.

  1.    What is your persona’s name?

  2.    What year was your persona born?

  3.    What is your persona’s native country?

  4.    What is your persona’s current country?

  5.    What are the climates of your persona's native and current countries?

  6.    What are the terrains of your persona's native and current countries?

  7.    In what city/town/barn was your persona born?

  8.    What city does your persona currently claim as "home"?

  9.    What are/were your persona’s parents’ names?

10.     What are/were your persona’s parents’ occupation(s)?

11.     Does your persona have any siblings, and if so, are any still alive?

12.     Is your persona married?

13.     What are the marriage customs and typical age of marriage for your persona's culture/time-frame?

14.     What type of building does your persona currently live in?

15.     With whom does your persona live?

16.    Are there members of your persona's household that are not related to your persons 
        (servants/retainers, wards/fosterlings, guests, etc.)?

17.     Were pets kept during your persona’s culture/time-frame? If so, what kind, if any, does your persona have?

18.     What is your persona’s occupation?

19.     How old is your persona?

20.     How long do people like your persona tend to live?

21.     What is your persona’s ethnicity?

22.     Who is your persona’s current employer?

23.     Would your persona have been literate in your chosen culture/time-frame?

24.     What level of education does your persona have?

25.     Where was your persona educated?

26.     What languages does your persona speak?

27.     What units of measure were used by your persona’s culture/time-frame?

28.     What type of money did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame use?

29.     What kind of legal system exists in your persona’s culture/time-frame, and who make the laws?

30.    What is the status of women among your persona’s culture/time-frame, and can they own property
        or conduct business?

31.    What major events have occurred during your persona’s lifetime? 
        (Natural catastrophes, wars, revolutions, discoveries, etc.?)

32.     Does your persona fight? If so, where did your persona learn to fight?

33     What type of armour and weapons were used by fighters in your persona’s culture/time-frame? 
        And how were such obtained?

34.     List your persona’s skills and hobbies. For each, write down where your persona learned them.

35.     What "class" is your persona? (I.e., royalty, nobility, merchant, middle, artisan, slave, etc.)

36.     How widely has your persona traveled?

37.     In what capacity has your persona traveled? (I.e., military, sailor, rich person’s hobby, etc.)

38.     Who is your persona’s current monarch?

39.     Who is the current Pope during your persona time?

40.    What religion is your persona?

41.    What kind of religious duties would be required of your persona?

42.    How did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame deal with trade?

43.    With respect to international relations, does your persona favor colonization, isolationism, conquest/conversion,
        open trade, etc.?

44.     How does your persona personally obtain goods (food, drink, clothes, etc.)?

45.     How did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame tell time?

46.     How did people of your persona’s culture/time-frame keep track of days?

47.     What type of clothes does your persona normally wear?

48.     What type of clothes does your persona wear for special occasions?

49.     Are there any (sumptuary) laws restricting what your persona can wear?

50.     What does your persona eat in a normal day?

51.     How is food prepared and preserved in your persona’s culture/time-frame?

52.     What spices were available to your persona and how expensive were they?

53.     What were the eating habits of people of your persona’s culture/time-frame?

54.     What are the cleaning/bathing habits of your persona’s culture/time-frame?

55.     What types of wildlife live in your persona's area?

56.     Name your persona’s favorite musicians/artists/dances.

57.     What political figure/party/movement does your persona support?

58.     Who is the most significant thinker of your persona’s time?

59.     What does your persona consider to be the greatest social problem their country?

60.     What is most likely to cause your persona’s death?

61.     What type of medical aid is available in your persona’s culture/time-frame, and does your persona have access to it?

62.    List at least three of your persona’s goals in life. (Learn to write, become apprenticed to a craftsman, visit the "big city",
        take over the family business, go to the Holy Land, usurp the crown, etc.)

63.    What does your persona know of history/science/medicine/geography?

64.    What’s the most striking scientific achievement of which your persona is aware?

65.    Does your persona consider the Earth to be flat, round, or hollow?

66.    Does your persona believe that the Earth revolves around the Sun, or vice-versa?

67.    What does your persona consider to be the causes of criminal behavior?

68.    What does your persona consider to be the true measure of a man?

69.    Who has most influenced your persona’s thoughts on these questions?

70.    Did your persona’s culture/time-frame have heraldry?


2 - 20   points     You have an introductory persona story.
22 - 40   points     You have a basic persona story.
42 - 60   points     You have a solid persona story.
62 - 80   points     You have an advanced persona story.
82 - 100   points     You have a very advanced persona story.
102 - 120   points     You have an extremely advanced persona story.
122 - 140   points     You have a persona story with great insights into the medieval mindset.


Raonull Modar, Saker Herald, "Creating a Name/Persona" (original version), consulting table handout.
Larkin O'Kane, "Creating a Name/Persona" (Ansteorra version from original version)), Larkin O'Kane's website.
Cariadoc of the Bow (David Friedman), "The Little Things", Cariadoc's Miscellany.
How to Build a Persona in the SCA by Robert Hole
Things Your Persona Might Know by Nicolaa de Bracton of Leicester
Valentyn’s Persona Test by Valentyn Drake
Persona Development Sheet by Gwenhwyfar ferch Llewelyn

Permission to Print

1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Ron Knight / Modar Neznanich
Baron Modar Neznanich, Volk Herald Extraordinaire, Order of the Pelican

For additional persona information, check out:
WHO'S WHEN: A History Timeline        (An in-progress work)
SCA Persona Info Page
For assistance in learning how to do research, check out:
The Research Page
How to Document a Name (to within an inch of its life) by Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvyrn (Heather Rose Jones)
Miscellaneous webpages:
Modar's Heraldry Page
Modar's SCA Page
SCA Interests Page
New Member Information