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Original Character Tournaments are all over deviantart and keep growing in popularity, but not everyone knows what they are or how to participate in them.  Since they're hosted by individuals and not actually affiliated with the website itself, there are no guides available to help explain how they work.  Hopefully, this FAQ will be helpful to anyone looking to get involved in OCTs.

What is an OCT?

OCTs, or "Original Character Tournaments" are contests held here on deviantart in which you can pit your original characters against other people's characters in a comic-style battle-royale.  To put it simply, it's a cross between an art competition and a storytelling contest.

OCTs can be hosted on someone's account, or they can have a tournament account of their own.  OCTs are usually open to anyone with a deviantart account, although some are invite only.  Information about who is eligible to audition will usually be clearly stated somewhere in the account journal.

How do OCTs work?

It's simple.  You design a character and audition for the tournament.  If you're accepted, you'll be given an opponent (someone else's character), a deadline (usually three or four weeks), and sometimes a theme (ex:  you have to battle it out in outer space!).  You then have until the deadline to create a comic or animation in which your character fights your opponent's character and wins.  Your opponent will do the same.  Then before the deadline, you both submit your comics, and a panel of judges decides on the winner.

The winner's comic becomes the canon version of the fight, and that person moves on to the next round and receives a new opponent.  This process continues until only one person remains, and that person is the winner of the tournament.

Who is the host and what do they do?

The host is basically the person in charge.  This person is the one who first came up with the idea for the OCT.  They have a lot of responsibilities, including creating and updating the tournament account, coming up with a set of rules, selecting judges for the tournament, posting the tournament roster, matchups, and winners, offering the prizes or finding other artists willing to offer prizes, setting deadlines for the rounds, and settling any disputes over the tournament rules.  Be nice to your host, they work hard for you.

Who are the judges and what do they do?

The host is in charge of finding a panel of judges to choose the winners each round.  These judges may be friends of the host, tourney veterans, people on DA who are known for their in-depth critique, or even people who went through an audition process to become judges.  Each tournament picks their judges differently.

The judges look over all the auditions and choose the final roster for the tournament.  They also view all the battles after the deadline has passed for each round, and decide which character won which battle.  Entries are judged based on a lot of things, including plot, humor, artistic ability, characterization and character interaction, creativity, and the all-important "heart" factor.

In theory the judges should be completely unbiased, but in reality we must remember that our judges are human and will ultimately pick whichever entry they liked best.  Please your judges, they control your fate!

Can I win anything in an OCT?

Yes!  Lots of OCTs offer great prizes, such as free commissions from artists, and even subscriptions to DA.  Participating in an OCT will also earn you an impressive pageview spike, meaning more people are stopping by to see your artwork.

How do I find a tournament to enter?

The first thing to do would be to look for an OCT currently taking auditions.  There are plenty of ways to find out about these, like searching the DA news and journal sections for tournament announcements.  OCTs already in progress will often advertise those just getting started somewhere in their journals.  There are even some very helpful tournament directories.

Once you've found a few OCTs still in the audition stage, look through them and see which one interests you.  Most OCTs have themes, so choose carefully:  you don't want to end up in a cyberpunk tourney if you're no good at drawing machines!

When you find an OCT you'd like to join, read through their journal to find out about tournament rules.  Some tourneys are very casual (just defeat your opponent, any way you can), but some are very structured (You have to defeat your opponent in a specific event, or in a certain area).  Make sure you know the rules before doing anything!  And before asking questions, see if the tournament has an FAQ.  These can be very helpful!

How do I enter?

All OCTs have some sort of audition process.

This process is generally the same for every tourney, unless specifically stated otherwise in the rules.  You'll have to do three things; create a character (or select one you've already created), make a reference sheet, and draw an audition comic (or animation, or short-story, ect.).

The tournament rules will tell you more about what to include in your audition comic.  The comic can be as long or as short as you like, but it usually revolves around your character finding out about the tournament, or arriving in the area where the tournament is being held.  Be sure you read the rules very carefully before drawing the comic so you can be sure you're meeting all requirements.

Your reference sheet is your way of telling the judges and your opponents everything they need to know about your character.  Be as detailed as possible, and if you can't fit all your information in the image, continue in the artist's comments.  A good reference sheet should include a detailed, full-color, full-body image of your character.  You may also want to include views of the character from different angles, or sketches of the character making different facial expressions.

Put as much effort into your audition as you can, because this is what determines whether you'll be chosen to participate in the tournament or not.

When you've done that, submit the links to your ref sheet and comic in a note to the tournament account.  There!  Now you've done all you can do, and the rest is up to the judges.

At the end of the audition period, the judges will choose a certain number of contestants from the people who auditioned, and these lucky few will go on to participate in the tournament itself.  Remember, not everyone who auditioned  will make it into the tournament.  Don't worry too much if you weren't chosen; there are lots of tournaments on DA, so keep on trying!

What kind of character can I enter?

Any character that you own the rights to.  From a character you've been doodling on the back of your homework ever since you were a little kid, to one you just made up on the spot after hearing about the tournament.  Your character can be anyone you want:  an adult or a kid, a human or a monster, a minumum-wage Burger King employee who moonlights as a superhero or an anthropomorphized ice-cream cone.  As long as you own it, you can use it.

Some tournaments only accept characters that meet certain requirements or fit in with a certain theme.  (For instance, I've seen a tourney that only accepts villain OCs, and another that's purely for non-human characters.)  The tournament rules will tell you what kind of characters are acceptable in that particular tournament.

Can I enter a fan-character?

Absolutely not.

If you're dead set on using a fan-character, there are a few tournaments on DA set specifically in fandom settings (such as pokemon) that only accept fan-characters, but for the greater majority OCTs they're not allowed.  A fan-character is still technically an original character, but since they were based off a pre-existing story that doesn't belong to you, they are banned from most OCTs.  That means the beloved Mary Sue from your thirty chapter One Piece fanfic is out.

For instance, you cannot enter a character who is a ninja from Naruto's world, even if you came up with that character yourself.  The world they belong to is still the copyrighted property of Masashi Kishimoto.

You also cannot enter Naruto himself, or any other character that was not created by you.  That would be stealing.

You can technically enter a blonde-haired ninja from a forest village who has a demon inside of him and who looks eerily similar to Naruto, but be prepared to have the character turned down.  The judges value creativity, and simply copying other people's ideas will never get you into a tournament.

Can my character have cool powers?

Yes!  That's the whole point!

Give your character any power you want.  You can even be silly about it!
Just don't make them too powerful.  Simply decimating the competition with your super-mega-ultra-power-blast isn't nearly as fun as coming up with creative ways to win by using the terrain to your advantage or using your opponent's strength against them.  Believe it or not, it's usually weaker characters that win tourneys, because their fights are more creative.

Remember also that the type of powers your character can have may be limited by the rules of the tourney.  Some tournaments don't allow powers that would be out of place in the setting, and others limit certain powers for the sake of the OCT's plot.  (For instance, powers like flight or magic-wielding being prohibited.)

What if I missed the deadline to audition?

No matter how badly you might want to be in this particular tournament, if you didn't get your audition in by the specified deadline then you won't be in the tournament.  No tourney will accept late entries or let a new artist join in the later rounds.  That would throw the whole tournament system out of whack, and be unfair to the other artists.

Never fear, you can still participate through something called an SE!

What is an SE?

SE stands for Spectator Entry.  A spectator entry is a comic in which your character can interact with other characters without actually fighting them.  SEs are just for fun, and while they serve to further your character's storyline, they don't have any impact on how your actual battles are judged.

People who are not contestants in the tournament can also make spectator entries, in which their OCs interact with the tournament fighters.  You can make as many SEs as you want.  This is a good opportunity for character building and interacting with the other contestants.  You can continue to make SEs even after you've been eliminated from the tournament.

Do my battles have to be in comic format?

Not at all!  Maybe you're not very confident about your artwork, or you're not very good at drawing things in comic format.  This doesn't mean you can't participate in tournaments.  Remember, it's an art contest, and there are lots of different types of art.

If you're not good at comics or don't think you'll be able to draw an entire comic before the deadline, you could always try splash pages.  These are entires contained in a single image.  A splash page could show any part of the fight you want, just as long as you make it clear which character won.  (However, many OCTs don't accept splash page entries.)

Animations are also accepted, and in fact usually have the advantage over comics.  If you've got mad flash skills, or even if you're just a beginner who could use your entry as an opportunity to practice, this could be a great direction to take.

Literature is also a form of art.  If you're a writer, you could submit your entry in short-story format.  Writers are usually at a disadvantage in tournaments, but that doesn't mean you can't give it your all and take out the competition with some spectacular prose.  There are even some tournaments designed specifically for writers, in which only written entries are accepted.

Different tournaments will have different rules about what kind of entries are accepted, so read the rules over carefully before deciding how to create your entry.  Tournaments are all about creativity, so find whatever kind of art works best for you and go with it.

Is mature content allowed in my battles?

Things like cursing and gore are usually acceptable in tourneys.  It all depends on which OCT you enter, so you'll need to check the tourney rules to see how far you're allowed to take things.  Keep in mind that too much mature content can be a turn-off for some judges.

Can I kill my opponent's character, and can my opponent kill my character?

Character kills aren't very common in OCTs, but they do happen.  Usually kills are frowned upon unless you can manage it with the utmost care and tact.  After all, your opponent worked hard to create that character.

Since killing a character effectively ends that artist's ability to participate in the tournament, character kills are generally considered bad sportsmanship.  (Some artists get around this by "killing" a character and then later bringing them back to life somehow.)

Once I've defeated my opponent's character, can I have them join my character and help them out in battles?

Indeed you can.  This type of teaming up with previously defeated characters happens a lot in tourneys.  It's called collecting a support character.  You can have as many support characters as you want.   Just make sure that your battles still revolve around your main OC.

Remember, when using a defeated opponent as a support character be sure to respect them, because they still belong to their creator.  You may want to ask permission first.

How does copyright play into all of this?

The storylines of OCTs belong ultimately to whoever is hosting them, but they are also technically "shared worlds".  A shared world is a plotline that comes from collaboration between a whole lot of different artists.  The story belongs, in part, to every artist in the tourney.

The characters still belong to their respective artists, but by entering your character in a tournament you give other artists in the tourney your permission to use that character for anything tournament-related.  Don't worry, the character is still yours and all the rights to that character still belong to you.
It's almost impossible to find a tourney account that isn't plastered with comments asking what OCTs are, can my character join in, ect. Maybe a guide answering some of those frequently asked questions will help out? If anyone thinks of something else I should include in the FAQ, let me know.

If you're looking to CREATE a tournament, check this guy's guide out!
Add a Comment:
starchild334 Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
THANK YOU. I was so confused about what these were and how they work! Still seeems hard to manage but I wish I could be a part of day :D
iNsAnItY-Wolf-Cry Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
VVraith Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have a question.  I have a few characters who are anthropomorphic cars (they are not "Cars" fan characters).  They are based on specific models.  Does that count as a fan character?
Candycanecrush Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
No, fan characters are non-canon characters IN a story already done. Your OC doesn't live in the Cars world so it's not a fan character. That's saying a cat character is a FC of Warriors because it's a cat.
TomQuoVadis Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm going to feature this on my OCT page.  It should be a big help to newcomers.
7thDeath Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for this. It was quite helpful and I'm kinda curious now. ^^
Cooldude104 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Student General Artist
This is awesome. Glad that this is here! Rules help!
SoniciatheHedgehog Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2014  Student General Artist
Sounds pretty fun! I might try to look for one in my spare time!
ParaXellate Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
COOL! this really helps! may I link back to this journal when I create an oct I think it would help greatly!
Errick-Fonzie Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Wow, thanks for taking the time to put all of this information in one place!
Tal63 Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you for this! It help clear things up!
xmamu Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Good Lordy this helped me understand much better! Thanks for posting this! :heart:
InkyShade Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
If character kills are not liked in OCT do I fight with knock outs like in for example chess battles then? So my opponent may be hurt and only gets knocked out?

YamiRedPen Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
In most OCTs, all that's required is that your character clearly won the fight, so any ending that makes it clear who came out on top is fine.  It doesn't matter how you do it, but creative wins tend to get more votes.
XRainbowsAtRainX Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
So you can only draw comics or an animation? How about a battle scene?

Also, can you submit more than one? (Like a group, not separate. )
YamiRedPen Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Things like that depend on the rules of each individual tournament.  Check the FAQ of the tournament you're interested in joining to find out what kind of battles they allow and whether you're allowed to have a team of OCs.
XRainbowsAtRainX Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
ImaginationSlave Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This makes so much more sense now. Why didn't I find you before?! :D
Robrockstar96 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013
Any advice for finding OCTs? The ones I find are always done auditioning.
Doodlefreak2000 Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2013  Student Digital Artist
There's a Group called oct followers you should check out. They have a bunch of them
Robrockstar96 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2013
Thanks Ill have a look at it
AnjuriNUtan Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student General Artist
My school's art club is thinking of holding an OCT, and have everyone maximize their creative abilities. I hope you don't mind us borrowing some of this. We'll be quoting you of course.
YamiRedPen Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh, have fun!
AnjuriNUtan Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Student General Artist
CaspromVX Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Student General Artist
I feel excited to start >.<!</body>
The-Raven-Soul Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This was extremely helpful, thank you!
o0Risa0o Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2012  Student General Artist
Gosh! I love you right now! X3
Tannaquil Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This was very helpful, thank you.
G-Man64 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2012
Can an OCT be a fan-content based?
YamiRedPen Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There have been many tournaments exclusively for fan-characters, yes.
TheSleepingRookie Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2012
Ok... I guess I'll try this out...
Samantha-Hogarth Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2012  Student General Artist
Thanks YamiRedPen, thinking of creating one
OMGBOYS Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This was SO helpful. Thank you.
UnknownNemesis98 Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
If anyone knows any OCTs (Preferablly writing) that're accepting entries right now can some one let know?
unusedEmotion Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2013  Student Writer
I'm hosting a written one, but this seems to be a very old message...
TheLegendofEevee Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist

The deadline is August 17, 2012--AND they accept writing! :D
OMGBOYS Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
The deadline is in a couple weeks. But sadly, they do not accept literature. Hope you're interested anyway :]
Official-Pieces Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
So my main character is me. a big guy who just loves to have fun.
killerspiderwebs Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2011
ooonnneee more question! uhm your oct can have an npc right like a pet or like some other figment of the imagination? or like a sword that talks (like :iconzeurel:'s spoiler?)
AmayaElls Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
That is a better question to ask your host, as it will differ from tournament to tournament.
killerspiderwebs Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012
yea true thanks
Miss-Sheepy Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you so much for making this, it really helped me learn to understand OCT's more :clap:
silver-gaze Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
AkiliRose Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I've been looking for this forever!! Thanks so much for posting!!!!!
thesmiley6679 Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2011
This helps Me out a Hellova lot, Thankyou! :D
TomQuoVadis Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm entering my first one and a friend suggested this to me. Thanks a ton!
lazykitsune Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is really helpful, thank you for making this!
Mestranonaiya Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2011  Hobbyist
This was very helpful! Thanks!
eunhaerepublic Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
a very helpful guide since im still new to deviantart
theMirage-Prismatic Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
thanks so much for writing this! this was super helpful and it sounds like fun
Add a Comment:

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