My Random Thoughts & Feels on Face Claims/FCs

When I first started roleplaying online waaaaay back in the mid-90s, we didn’t actually use “face claims” for our characters. On AOL, we tended to use macros with descriptions and would just paste the same character description when we entered a chat or scene, allowing people to have a general idea and form their own visual image of our characters. Somewhere along the way, people shifted to using art and drawings to represent their characters. We only needed one or two, since it wasn’t specific to anything other than general appearance. They were still more considered a guide or general likeness.

By the late 90s, some people transitioned to using real people’s images for their characters. 99% of the time, those would be actors or models, since their images were the most readily available (and it’s also generally regarded as a little less creepy to use images of a person who puts their image out into the world than some random person). Usually it would be very specific photos from a certain movie or photo shoot where the appearance was similar. A few people used their own images or those of friends’, but that was and still is less common. At this point, the images were used on character profile pages more than anywhere else, so it still tended to be a handful or less, and often people edited those to reflect what their character’s actual appearance was, such as changing eye color, adding scars, etc.–The latter many people still do, and with the ease of use of many photo and image editing apps and programs, it’s even easier to customize their look.

I remember the first time I encountered social media as a roleplay source/tool. I was in a closed RP group through AOL still (hello Paradise Valley), and several of the characters had MySpace pages. The idea was completely foreign to me. As someone who mostly live-Rped text scenes, I couldn’t even relate to the idea of using social media. I didn’t understand if they did scenes on their public pages, or just writing posts, or whatever. I wasn’t a fan of the medium and I didn’t make any attempts to be involved in it. I continued my way of roleplay for awhile but mostly fell off for several years.

When I started roleplaying again, it was back in 2013, after I had played The Secret World for several months. I knew the lore fairly well, I saw there was an active roleplay scene, and I was itching to get involved. I felt comfortable enough trying to dip my toe in, but it was all new to me. The Secret World was my first MMO too so I wasn’t the best with the controls in general. I didn’t even know I could do something like… hold the middle mouse wheel down to make my character continue to walk, so when characters were walking and talking, I’d literally have to stop walking, type my response, and resume walking each time until someone taught me. I was very green!

When I first started roleplaying on TSW, it was ingame so obviously my toons were their own faces and that was that. Somewhere along the way, early on, someone asked my character (Medrina) if she was on twitter. There it was again… that weird blend of real world social media and roleplay/fantasy. I had never used Twitter at all, but it seemed commonly accepted by most of the other roleplayers/characters. I also was told Funcom had characters on there that interacted with our characters and that was a really cool and unique idea to me. Obviously this time I didn’t shy away. I joined Twitter, and learned how to navigate it through my roleplay profiles.

I realized right away many people were using face claims/people for their characters on Twitter. Originally I was going to use the same photos/person I had used for another iteration of Medrina. I quickly realized something else, though… People’s posts involved their face claims doing various activities to support their posts. Suddenly having a few pictures of a certain person didn’t cut it. I needed more than a few. Thus began my journey for finding new faces for my characters (Medrina and then Rye at the time).

Finding a face for an existing character is a whole different process, I think, than starting with a face claim and a loose concept. For the former, there is already an established “look,” so that’s obviously the first thing I’d look for (generic description + model or actress, etc.). But there is also a personality to consider, so while someone might look how I envision my character, if their clothing style, general expressions, images of their lifestyle, etc. don’t match up, it won’t work. With the latter (a loose idea and a face claim you like), it’s a little easier to develop the character based on access to images and loose concepts. Either way there has to be a variety of shoots/photos from different times to support consistent posts. Many of us quickly went from using just press-style photos of our FCs to snagging images that are more candid, and even stuff from their public Instagram and other social media accounts. Weird to some, yes, but it gives such a variety and helps shape the life you’re trying to show to the public.

With all my toons (and I’ve had a LOT since I first started playing The Secret World) I quickly started collecting folders full of potential photos of the people I use as face claims, making me look like some sort of celebrity & pseudo-celebrity stalker. I even have photos all throughout my phone just for added weirdness, because a lot of times I tweet from my phone and want to have photos to post. It can be easy to overwhelm yourself with cool images, too, as I’ve learned!

Even though I have used face claims for years, it’s still a strange concept for me. It’s weird to share with anybody who doesn’t do the exact same thing already. I’ve had many a conversation with other FC-obsessed people where it’s like “oh check out this person! They’d make a great FC!” even without a character concept in mind. Most of those are still unused, but they’re there. I have so many folders of “this person has a cool look/vibe/lifestyle and maybe one day I’ll use them” photos.

I like the added depth having visuals in general can add to a character, and the way it gives different glimpses into their lives and experiences. I also like the “hunt” for finding the perfect shot for an idea/post/story. There are times where the posts and stories are impacted or even generated by the photos I’ve got or want to post. Sometimes these are photos of their face claim, and other times they are just random world photos that suit what I think the character is doing during non-RP time (there is a LOT more of this time in the past few years).

Face claims, especially combined with social media posts, are still a weird and unique addition to roleplay I think, but they’re as common as a character background anymore, and can definitely can add flavor. I don’t think having one is a mandatory part of roleplay, though, and I completely respect people who don’t use face claims or even visuals at all. Having or not having a suiting FC never makes or breaks my decision to roleplay or interact with someone. Ultimately roleplay is about writing and the stories we create, and there is no right or wrong way to create a story.


I’m still stuck in the description/screenshot/drawing era, and probably always will be.

Part of it might be that the majority of (MMO)RPGs I’ve participated in weren’t based on the real world and were often dominated by non-human characters.

Part of it might also be that the internet wasn’t the highly visual medium that it is today. – And I do remember the explosion of “(un)OFFICIAL fansites” that would have present-day copyright lawyers chomping at the bit. – Constantly posting pictures of yourself/your character wasn’t really a thing.

My characters aren’t based on any real life people (thought they might borrow a name or take cues from someone’s general appearance) and typically don’t exist outside of the confines of the game. With that, as well as my general aversion to social media, I don’t really have a “use” for face claims. My IC twitter accounts are almost completely dormant. I don’t act out my characters’ social life online (and nothing against those who do, it’s just not my cuppa).

On the rare occasion that my characters are represented outside of the game, it’s (still) usually just in the form of screenshots and profile pictures.

Sorry for the semi-coherent rambling. Blame the lack of caffeine.


Hey I think it was easy to understand! :smiley: But yeah, like… They definitely aren’t necessary to RP. It’s always much more about the writing, the personality, and what else comes out from RP moments that draws me to other people’s characters.


I always hated face claims for characters. Most people would use an established wrestler or celebrity. I preferred to use my imagination. The really old school late 80’s forum role-players would use this, at least for wrestling rp games. Poser (software) - Wikipedia


Oh yeah back in the 90s we used random art or sketched the images. I think anything works, really. Since I’m someone who definitely took to the using celebs & such as FCs I definitely can’t knock it. I think any option works, as long as the player feels they are best representing their character and getting what they want out of their RP.


I see a big difference between saying ‘My character looks like this,’ and ‘This is my character.’

As a matter of terminology, I hate the term ‘faceclaim’ so much. It hearkens to playgrounds and dolls and jealous children saying they are the one who gets to play [insert coveted character] and you all can’t.

I see no problem with using real person references for the look of someone, but there is a definite line where you get creepy. I have encountered plenty of RPers who not only use the face but the name and persona of real people. So there is definitely a wide spectrum of behaviors.

The ideal for me is to use references to get art made, but I understand that that doesn’t do it for everyone.


I’ve never been a fan of using well-known faces as references for my characters. While many people tend to choose established wrestlers or celebrities, I’ve always leaned towards relying on my creativity. This approach reminds me of the classic late 80s forum role-players who used their imagination rather than relying on readily recognizable figures.

1 Like

Describing humans without any reference at all also lead to how many 90s forum RP characters were ‘slender and curvaceous’ beings with vividly colored ‘orbs’ where their eyeballs should be. References are useful for more than visual representations.


lol oh my gosh the amount of thesaurus writers I knew in the 90s though… ;D