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Forums » RP Discussion » Opinions on Face Claims?

I'm going to start this out by mentioning that I am old (in internet years, anyway. As in, "I know what dial-up sounds like from personal experience") and I've been in many different kinds of roleplay communities with wildly different codes of etiquette. During one of my many hiatuses from this site, I rekindled a friendship and picked up characters from a long time ago, and therefore, the habits and methods we were used to (at least as much as can be ported over from ProBoards, to Discord) and now that I find myself wanting to return here, I am a little torn.

A lot of the characters I made in those circles, I'd like to bring here so I can develop them with more people, however, it's made me a little confused and curious about one aspect. I joined RPR via the Furcadia community, and there almost all character references are done via drawn art (either drawn yourself, or increasingly in my experience, commissioned). This is fairly obvious, considering we're talking about characters that 99.9% of the time, are anthros. However, I've been in other circles that are primarily based around TV or movie fandoms (or at least 'humanoid-centric') and the expectations for OCs there was to use a Face Claim.

(For anyone confused, Face Claims are when you claim an actor, musician, or some form of celebrity to base their appearance off of for the sake of icons and quick reference. Think of it like fan-casting an OC. Generally, in some communities two OCs using the same person as a face claim is considered taboo outside of twins... but also, I'm primarily a Whovian, and our canon has around seven or eight David Tennants walking around, so it's less of a big deal.)

While I plan to eventually draw my own references or commission art of the OCs in question to flesh out their appearances beyond 'looks like this one famous person', it does make me wonder what the general consensus is on the practice. I'm fairly shy on this website, so I don't talk to many people, but I do remember a kerfuffle over the nature of image rights that got very nasty. I don't want to reignite that debate, in fact that very thread is part of the reason I've hesitated just bringing the character over here wholesale (that, and just general shyness), but I do want to hear opinions on the concept since I don't know how widespread it is now that we live in a world without CAUTION 2.0 (if anyone besides me even remembers the site, it was an a forum used to find new forum RPs back around the late 00's.)
I use real FCs a lot. I always try and list name-credit with link to whoever's depiction I am using for a character.
In today's world of AI depictions it is easy enough to generate a most realistic face/body for use as well.
I don't think there is a general consensus. I've seen plenty of ads that says 'no RL faceclaims' and just as many saying 'RL faceclaims only'.
I believe it depends on the type of RP people are looking for, and their own comfort levels.

I'm in a discord server where an FC is required, with a pretty precise definition of a 'public figure' (someone who is knowingly and willingly is putting their image out into the world for entertainment purposes and is making a profit doing so), and pretty cautious about members using random people they find online (e.g. amateur cosplayers). And I've rp'd there with the same OC with another writer who specifically do not like rl faceclaims, and I simply describe them instead.

Linking a recent thread re: fcs so you have some ideas of varying opinions and approach:

I use FCs almost always, my explanation is also in the thread above. But generally the idea is that the FC is simply a starting point of aesthetics and vibes.
Sanne Moderator

My personal opinion on Face Claims is fairly neutral. They serve a solid purpose, and as long as the face claim is used within certain respectful bounds, there's nothing wrong with it!

Actors use their likeness to play a character constantly, and as public figures their likeness makes some sense to be used for custom characters. The only thing that gives me a personal ick, and is also not allowed on the RPR as an actual rule, is to play the real humans behind the faces. So for example, you're allowed to use an actor's face for a fictional character, but you're not allowed to roleplay as the actor themselves. RPing as the person crosses a very strong boundary. This also includes public figures, like YouTubers etc.

I've personally used (free) stock photographs to depict my characters with, but I end up preferring using their photos as references to get custom art with, especially if my characters involve any kind of adult content (including gorey stuff like zombies etc.).
Hazesh (played by FadedTapestry)

I've used face claims until I get artwork of the character, as often the face claim is a foundation rather than the 'core' appearance. For example, Hazesh's features and physique are a combination of Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood, Zach McGowan as Charles Vane in Black Sails, and Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay in the Mummy.

I have no issue with other people using face claims.
I’m also a longtime roleplayer that found RPR after many years on Furcadia. The concept of “faceclaims” is pretty new to me and, it seems, very popular these days. I will very rarely use a faceclaim and it is only until I’m able to get artwork. I’ve joined more than a few Discord RP servers that demand players use faceclaims and I’ve promptly left. I don’t really mind if my RP partner is using a faceclaim, it’s just not really something I’m interested in.

What I do not find OK is someone using someone else’s artwork to represent their character.

TLDR; I understand why people use faceclaims, but it’s not really for me and I will always prefer original art.
Gonna throw my two cents in here as a "Recent FC Convert" myself. Prior to branching outside of anthro RP I had never really used an FC before. In a vague sense I did have an actor generally in mind for Rexington — Chris Pine, for anyone curious — he has always been depicted via commissioned or self-made art. Like you mention @Snipehunt, Furcadia seemed to lean into the more art-centric side of things, and FCs were rarer there than they are here.

That being said, last year I did finally work up the guts to step out of my decade plus comfort zone of anthro/medieval RP to give humans a try (shoutout to my beloved Excessive Eighties group), and I've gotta say that thinking of FCs during character creation is a whole new ball game that I absolutely LOVE. There is something about finding an actor/actress that fits the vibe or aesthetic I'm trying to capture that I find really gratifying, and it helps to have an 'anchor' so to speak like @Hazesh said, in which to graft my general ideas onto.

My main line in the sand that @Sanne already touches on, is that I am only comfortable with what I will tentatively call 'big famous people, i.e. the actors we see acting on the screen in some form of fashion. I personally get a little weird about 'little famous people' such as a content creators or influencers that I don't really consider recognizable, yet aren't your every day Joe Schmoes that are banned here (for good reason) on RPR. It's a gray area that I am hesitant to step into and much prefer using 'real' famous people, though I understand that that's a subjective term.

Definitely understand the hesitance some people have when it comes to playing with people who use FCs, and that's their choice in the end, same as groups requiring them on the flip side. Like others here in this thread I fall in the middle where I can take it or leave it when it comes to my RP partners, however I am honestly 'ruined' now, I can't see myself going back to my non-FC ways for humans.

PS — I also feel compelled to mention, since it was @bitteryeen's comment that brought me here, that an FC can end up living rent free inside my head if they're done right. A recent example is Amelia Eve ala the Haunting of Bly Manor, which I finally got around to watching last week and can't recommend it enough if that's your thing, but seeing her on the screen immediately conjured a character that used her as an FC in the best of ways. ❤️
Cosmonautilus wrote:
I also feel compelled to mention, since it was @bitteryeen's comment that brought me here, that an FC can end up living rent free inside my head if they're done right. A recent example is Amelia Eve ala the Haunting of Bly Manor, which I finally got around to watching last week and can't recommend it enough if that's your thing, but seeing her on the screen immediately conjured a character that used her as an FC in the best of ways. ❤️

I just want you to know that this brought the BIGGEST smile to my face, so thank you for that!! (literally the only FC I have ever used and I’m so happy to hear it had such a lasting, positive effect).

That being said, I completely agree with this. There are some FCs that will forever remind me of the RP characters that used them — and I’m not mad about it!
I am what you would probably call a Faceclaim Hater. I have the exact same background with RP and with character refs as OP -- coming up with an appearance and drawing it out to the best of your ability or commissioning someone with the necessary skill to do so. Some of my bias probably comes from that nostalgia, but also there's been some other factors.

When I've been on Discord servers that require Faceclaims, it often strays very close to RL RP -- people pushing the actors/models/celebrities together and making them kiss. RL RP (roleplaying as real people who exist in Our Reality and are not just fictional constructions who could) has always been a big squick for me. Especially where I've seen characters with next to no personality and literally no backstory accepted because they had a good faceclaim, it seems like the face is the character for some people and to me that's not the kind of RP I'm interested in.

It reminds me a lot of the Tumblr Gif RP Era, which I never understood, and I wonder if the FC idea stemmed from that. I'm sure someone knows.

Another issue I've run into with faceclaims is the issue of the consent of the actor or celebrity faceclaimed. I feel like to some extent models understand that they don't know exactly what their likeness will be used to represent, but actors reject roles they don't want to portray; I feel like it'd feel weird if, as an actor, I found out my likeness was being used to represent a character in a Harry Potter roleplay server. This is compounded in that fandom in particular because the actors and models are usually children (and the vibes are possibly weirder when you use an adult supermodel to represent a fourteen year old).

On some of these servers, people will use faceclaims and then have them rejected (either before or during rp) and have to find a new one because the actor or celebrity has done something problematic. This is strange to me if it's not RL/Celebrity RP, and if they're not considering the actor to be Truly Representative of their char as a whole. It's just... weird, because the actor as a person didn't matter before...

I understand at least using FCs if you have a general vibe for a character to help build an appearance and to be able to better visualize things, but when you come in with a highly specific appearance in mind and are required to find a faceclaim, it rarely works out in my experience. One char I've been required to find a FC for has curly, white hair, brown eyes, and freckles. You may recognize these as features that don't typically coexist in real people, let alone celebrities. I could find FCs with one or maybe two of these features, and often they'd be Chiselled Cheekbone, Pouting 20-Something Supermodels, which was not helpful to represent a round-faced, angry young teenager. Eventually I settled on a dark blond FC with curly hair and brown eyes who had vaguely the right face shape, and changed photos to be in black and white to obfuscate the hair. Nevertheless I'd have people argue in RP that no, my char could NOT have white hair or freckles, because he was (I've genuinely forgotten the actor's name) and (the actor) doesn't have white hair or freckles -- so I'm not sure I buy the "just use a FC to capture a general vibe, not the entire visual" explanation...

That said, it can be hard to find servers that don't use FCs, so I'm learning to live with them... but for me if a server or RP *requires* a FC and won't accept art or AI shenanigans that both look like the char and like a real person, that's a red flag that this is Celebrity RL RP.
Snipehunt Topic Starter

Bealocwealm wrote:

I'm gonna be honest, I've been poking around FC-adjacent spaces for over a decade now and the things you are describing sound like horror stories, tbh. I'm really sorry to hear you had to deal with those sorts of players...
Snipehunt wrote:
Bealocwealm wrote:

I'm gonna be honest, I've been poking around FC-adjacent spaces for over a decade now and the things you are describing sound like horror stories, tbh. I'm really sorry to hear you had to deal with those sorts of players...

I don't blame you for feeling that! It seems to pop up in Harry Potter RP (**** terfs) more than anywhere else, so it's honestly nice to hear these aren't actually commonalities of FC requirements, but may be unique to those spaces. I did see stuff like that in a GOT RP once, but that was a while ago.
I'm not against people using face claims, but in my RPs with people, I definitely prefer the experience of having custom artwork. However, I also come from spaces where RP was associated with "you have a custom design and custom art that you either drew or commissioned," so to me it's always been strange to see FCs (as well as uncredited artwork or artwork used without permission). I do obviously have an issue with people who use FCs that are just, like, someone's selfies though, and I've seen that happen a really weird amount that's given a less than favorable slant to my opinion.

It might be worth mentioning but I have aphantasia (aka I can't see in my head so I can't imagine a visual image), and drawn art is much easier for me to imagine the details of than realistic human faces. A FC is just a face to me and not something I consider as remarkable or memorable as like, artwork I've never seen and will never see again, you know? Also, there IS something really magical about RPing with someone when you both draw and do art related to the RP together. Love that experience, it was very formative for me in my RP career so I think part of it is related to that. But yeah, nothing actually wrong with it, as long as it's a FC of someone with a public image and not some random person who posted a selfie that took off or whatever.

I do also recognize that FCs (and art used without permission) are much much much more accessible though. Not everyone draws or is confident sharing their art, and obviously commissions cost money. I would still prefer to RP with someone who drew their character even if their art wasn't practiced or polished, but I get it.

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