OOTS Fan Comic Guidelines

Welcome to the brand-new Fan Comics forum at the Giant in the Playground message board! This forum is dedicated to allowing those fans who feel inspired by The Order of the Stick a place where they can display their own homages in comic strip form.

What is a Fan Comic?
For our purposes here, we will define a fan comic as a comic strip that is non-commercial in nature and fulfills one or both of the following criteria:
  • It is created in the artist’s best approximation of the signature “Order of the Stick” style—that is, it’s a stick figure comic, OR
  • It is a comic posted by a fan of the “Order of the Stick” here on our fan comic forum and not displayed on any other website. (By displayed, we mean visible at a URL, not simply hosted on a server or image-hosting service.)

In other words, it doesn’t need to be OOTS-style, but if it isn’t, it can’t be your regular webcomic that you are just promoting here by mirroring your updates. This isn’t a webcomic hosting site. If you are serious enough about your webcomic to give it its own website, it’s not a fan comic anymore. You should leave the updates/images on your own site and start a discussion thread in the Webcomics forum instead. If it’s an OOTS-style comic, we waive that requirement because any comic using the OOTS style is obviously a fan comic, and is welcome to post here.

As far as non-commercial, we ask that any fan comic posted here also refrain from selling merchandise or accepting donations for their work for as long as you are getting the essentially free advertising of having your updates posted on this forum. If you feel like you have a sufficient readership of your own to warrant such moves, we ask that you stop using the fan comic forum to promote it. Again, you are encouraged to start a thread about it on the Webcomics forum, but please don’t post each update anymore.

Fan Comic Threads
A fan comic thread is a message board thread devoted to one serial comic strip, usually (but not exclusively) created by one person or team and disseminated to the rest of the message board community. Generally, the creator of the strip starts a new thread for his or her new comic strip and posts each update as it occurs in the opening post, so that readers can see all the strips in the series in one place. The remainder of the thread after the opening post is the place for author announcements and feedback from the rest of the community.

Note that this is separate from a discussion thread about a webcomic being hosted somewhere else. Such discussions can and do go on, but we ask that they be confined to the Webcomics forum. That way, readers can browse the Fan Comic forum for new comics they can read here without having to sort through threads that will send them off-site.

Starting a New Fan Comic Thread
To start a new fan comic thread, simply begin a new thread in this forum with the name of your comic (possibly with a short description, like “OOTS-style Sci-Fi” or “Realistic Fantasy Art” or something). In your first post, include whatever information you would want a reader to have, such as the theme, genre, and how often you plan to update. Then include a link to the first installment and submit! We do ask that you not start a new fan comic thread until you have at least one actual comic…no threads about how you plan to do a comic later, please.

Also, note that in order to keep the focus of this forum on-target, all new threads for this forum must be approved by a moderator. That means that when you start a new thread, it goes into a queue for the moderators to look at and approve. Note that the only criteria for approval are those given in these rules. We’re not judging the quality of your comic--just that it is, in fact, a comic!

Displaying Comics in You Opening Post
There are two possible ways to display your comics: as a link, or as an embedded image.
  • Embedded Image: This is when you use the [IMG] tag to include an actual picture of your comic that is hosted somewhere else here on the screen. Note that contrary to what some may believe, this does NOT increase the load on our server! In fact, any extra slowness you experience while opening an image-laden fan comic post is coming from the server on which the image is hosted. While imbedding images allows readers to see all of your comics in the same window, we do not recommend this method for new fan comics. Why? Because the first post will load all of the images before displaying the thread, and that generally takes forever, especially over a slower internet connection. You may well alienate your potential readers by taking too long for the comic to load, and you force readers who have kept current with your strip to sit through your entire archive loading. (And don’t be fooled by spoiler tags: images in a post load as soon as you load the page, even if they’re spoilered! Spoiler tags will hide those images until you click them open, but that doesn’t decrease the loading time at all compared to having them all posted out in the open.) For these reasons, we recommend:
  • Links to Off-Site Hosting: This is a list of simple URL clickable link to the each comic; readers click one, and the comic opens in a new window. The main benefit of this method of posting comics is that it allows your thread to load much, much, MUCH faster. This is especially appreciated by readers who have already read your first 28 comics and don’t really want to sit around while they load so that they can read #29. Because it opens in a new window, readers can easily return to the original window to click the next one open. It’s not as snazzy as the Forward/Back buttons on the main site comics, but it’s the best we can offer.

Of course, the choice is yours, but we strongly suggest going with links.

Spoiler Tags
Many fan comic creators choose to put either their embedded images or the list of links within spoiler tags, in order to keep the opening post from being to long. This is a great idea, and can be used to separate chapters or other related content together. However, as mentioned above, remember that ALL images in a post load when a reader first accesses the page--NOT when they open the spoiler box! So if you have 40 images in your first post, 39 of which are behind spoilers, it's going to load like a 40-image post.

Also, due to the common usage of these tags in this way, it's probably a good idea to mark any ACTUAL spoilers with words to that effect beforehand!

In order to make spoiler tags, type the following
[spoiler]Put the text, image, or URL you want to hide here![/spoiler]
One Comic Strip, One Thread
Every fan comic series should have its own thread, and usually, only that one thread. That is, one thread for every series of comic strips that are numbered sequentially or otherwise associated with one another, not one thread per individual page of comic art. In order to keep one comic from overtaking the forum, we ask that creators (or readers) not create secondary threads to discuss the comic under most circumstances. There are some exceptions:
  • If a comic is wholly or partly created by committee, team, or as a result of fan interaction (such as voting to decide what happens next), then the comic can have two threads: one for display of the comic and discussion of the finished product, and one for polling and/or discussing how to create it. So for example, the creators might post comic #42 in their main thread, then post a poll in the second thread about what should happen next. Readers respond with comments on the existing comic #42 in the original thread, then vote on the poll in the other one. Note that there should only be one such polling thread, not one per poll associated with the comic.
  • When a fan comic thread reaches 50 pages of comments, the creator should start a new thread for the comic. Moderators will lock the old thread upon being notified that the new one is in place. We obviously recommend that the new thread link to the old one, or even repeat the entire original opening post with the archives (especially if they are links, rather than embedded images).
  • If your comic creates a legitimate spin-off, where a separate plot or character will exist side-by-side within the same narrative universe, we will allow a second thread to be created for the spin-off—within reason. Don’t go spinning off every character in a cast of 30 to their own strip so that you can have 30 threads on these forums.

If you think you need a second thread about your comic for one of these reasons, it might help to include a note to the moderators in your opening post explaining why, to increase their chances of approving the thread creation. You can always edit it back out after the thread is posted.

Thread Necromancy
The “one comic strip, one thread” rule means that practice of “Thread Necromancy” (posting to threads from months or years earlier to bring them back to the current page) will gain more leniency from the moderators in this forum, under certain circumstances. Specifically, the creator of a fan comic thread will be permitted to post to his thread to bring it out of “hiatus” at any time, even if it has fallen out of current use. (This does not mean you can constantly “bump” your strip to keep it at the top of the page!) Readers of comics, however, are limited to the normal message board rules regarding raising old threads. If a creator wants to let his comic drift down the forum list into oblivion, we suggest you don’t fight it.

As mentioned above, creators cannot bump their own threads endlessly to keep them at the top of the forum. However, it is permissible to post to your own fan comic thread to announce a new comic update to your opening post. This is because edits to an original post do not cause the thread to rise to the top of the forum, and as such, readers may not notice that you have updated the comic otherwise.

Fan Comic Content
We ask that all fan comic threads follow the same rules for content to which the rest of this message board adheres—even in the comic itself. That means, among other things:
  • No profanity. Use the message board’s language filter as a guide to what is acceptable.
  • No explicit sexual content or nudity. Specifically, this means no genitals of any sort, and no female nipples, among other limits.
  • No subject matter that inherently deals with real-world religious or political issues. This means that you cannot post a comic about your personal faith, or about what’s going on in the Parliament of your home nation. You may post comics with fantasy or science fiction religions or politics, as long as they aren’t just thinly-veiled references to the real deal (i.e. President “Orack Barama”).
  • No discussions of real-world crimes or criminal activities, or how to commit them. This includes depictions of illegal drug abuse.

For a complete list of what sort of material isn’t allowed on these forums, please refer to the Rules of Posting.

Use of The Order of the Stick Characters, Places, and Other Trademarks
Generally speaking, you are not permitted to make fan comics that tell the stories of any of the characters of The Order of the Stick or feature any of the places that exist in the comic, such as Azure City. These names and likenesses are trademarked by Giant in the Playground and cannot be used without specific permission. There are a few situations where it may be deemed acceptable:
  • A cameo appearance, defined now as an appearance that is confined to a single strip of the comic series, done for humor or contrast. Essentially, this constitutes a parody of sorts, and as such is considered Fair Use. Note that the character should not have any meaningful influence on the plot, and the event should not be referenced repeatedly in future comics. For example, it’s OK for your characters to stop and ask Durkon for directions to the nearest tavern in one panel and then never mention it again. It is not OK for Durkon to give them their sacred quest to fulfill Thor’s prophecy--which will comprise several dozen strips of story--even if Durkon’s entire appearance is limited to one strip.
  • Similarly, place names can be mentioned briefly, in passing, but your characters may not go there and spend 100 strips exploring the surroundings. They can say that the dungeon is 15 miles north of Cliffport in one panel, but they cannot go on a 10-strip shopping spree in the city first.

We ask that in any strip where an existing OOTS character appears, you include the following notice in the image file (usually along the bottom):
<Character name>™ created by Rich Burlew, used under OOTS Fan Comic Guidelines.
Responsibility for Content
By posting a fan comic in these forums, you are taking sole responsibility for its content. While this is true for every post in these forums, it is a good thing to remember doubly when drawing a fan comic. You can be infracted or banned for something you say inside a fan comic that is viewable on this site, so be careful.
In particular, this means that you are responsible for any copyright infringement or trademark violation you include in your comic. If the moderating staff is contacted by a copyright or trademark holder who claims that part or all of your comic infringes on his or her rights, we are going to move the fan comic thread out of the public eye immediately while we review it. If we determine that the complaint is valid (i.e. we do not feel that it is a protected parody or other Fair Use), we will delete the strip in question from the fan comic opening post. We need to do this in order to protect our own legal position, and because it’s what Rich asks of people who host OOTS art illegally. It’s only fair that his own website upholds the same standards.


We hope these guidelines will help inspire you to create new and exciting stories for your fellow posters to read and enjoy. If you have any question about these guidelines, please post them in this thread so that we can answer them and update these rules. Thanks, and good luck!