Comprehensive Adoptables Guide

✦ Adoptables

If you’re part of the art community — whether it be on DeviantArt, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — you’ve probably come across artists selling “adoptables.” Also called “adopts,” they are designs created by an artist, which are then put up for sale and can be purchased by others. These designs can be anything from humans to creatures to animals to clothing to weapons; they can also be based on popular fandoms such as Pokémon!
Most people who purchase these adopts use them to write stories, for roleplaying, and other personal uses. Depending on the artist’s terms of service, they can sometimes be used for commercial projects, though that is something the client needs to discuss with the designer!

✦ Original Species

Sometimes, artists who sell adoptables may choose to create a unique species around their designs. For an artist to claim something as an original species, there must be something that sets them apart from your standard human, animal, or preexisting mythical creature (like a unicorn). Just taking a cat and dog and mixing them to create a new hybrid together is not enough! They’re usually given special traits, lore, and sometimes even worlds. There are three types of original species: open, semi-open, and closed.
Simply put, an open species is a species that everyone has access to for free. The artist comes up with a general guideline for the species such as physical traits that all individuals must have for it to be considered a part of the species. They will probably also list the limitations, though open species generally don’t have too many. You can make as many as you’d like and even sell your own adoptables of the species! Dutch Angel Dragons are a popular open species that you can check out!
Semi-open species are a bit more difficult to explain, with their exact definitions being up to the creator’s discretion. More often than not, they have more restrictions than an open species, such as limiting certain traits, the amount one person can own, and the ability to create adopts for sale. Sometimes, they also require design approval from the creator, as well as requiring them to be registered in the species’ “masterlist” or database. A good example of a semi-open species is Sergals!
Probably the most popular type, closed species are the opposite of an open species in that they have many restrictions and cannot be obtained freely. They are usually only available to the community through adopts designed by the creator and their designated staff. If you want to design your own character from the species, this requires the purchase of a Make-Your-Own (MYO) slot from the creator. Artists who want to build a world around their closed species require all designs to be tracked on a masterlist. Despite their many rules, closed species are easily the most fun to get into, as they usually come with extensive lore, prompts, and plotlines for people to get involved in. Sushi Dogs are a well-known closed species that’ve been running for a long time!
A masterlist is a database used mostly by closed species communities. It tracks every adoptable of the species ever created and may include their traits, purchase price, original designer, and more. Most importantly, it’s used to document ownership; if the current owner passes the design on to another user, most — if not all — groups require that the transfer be logged. In the case of databases hosted on sites like DeviantArt, it is a manual process in which the current owner will need to find their design’s entry, then comment to tag the new owner and include the method of transfer (resale, trade, gift, etc.). Failure to update the ownership may have consequences depending on the rules of the community. Regardless, it is good etiquette to do so anyways in order to help prevent scamming.
Oftentimes, artists put their hearts and souls into their creations. Of course, it would make sense for them to attempt to compensate for the time and effort they’ve dedicated to perfecting their species. As much as they enjoy making art, artists are people, too, and require money to survive. For many, selling adopts of their closed species helps them support their passion for design; for others, it may even become their full-time job! In addition to all of this, you are getting a chance to be a part of a community, where you’ll make new connections, create artwork, and develop stories with others who enjoy the same thing(s) as you do; overall, it’s a really fun experience! All your contributions will help the community grow, allowing you to provide care and support for your favorite artists!
The short answer is, nothing is stopping you. While it’s true that most closed species owners do not take legal actions such as trademarking their species, it’s not about the law. It’s about respecting the individual and proving that you practice proper etiquette. Original species may be a small subsection of the vast art community but it’s a part of it nonetheless. By disrespecting the boundaries of closed species, individuals show that they cannot be trusted, as their actions reflect who they are as a person.
There’s really no easy way to answer this. You must create an original species with a design that is new, unique, and aesthetically appealing. This means you’ll need to have prior art experience, an understanding of design, as well as advertising know-how. You’ll also need to put time and effort into your community with the understanding that it may not take off as quickly as you’d like. You’ll have to recruit staff to assist you in making the community warm and inviting, while helping you maintain activity via prompts, events, and adoptables. You also need to think about your platform, ie, do you want to create your own site or use one that’s preexisting to host your community like FurAffinity? Many artists get into the adoptables game with the intention of making a profit — which is understandable — but you must put your heart into it, because if you don’t like your own species, how can you expect others to?
Again, not something with a simple answer. Some initial reasons may be that the species is not as original as the creator thinks. As artists, we take inspiration from many sources and turn them into our own creations, but some species don’t stray far enough from the source material, resulting in an “original” species that closely mimics an already-existing species. This may lead to a lot of backlash, as word often travels fast in the adoptable community. (Some creators never recover, so please be careful!) On the other hand, let’s say the original species is very innovative and gets a lot of hype from the community. This does not stop them from falling off the radar. The reason why many of them flop is because many creators — especially those new to the community and this is their first original species — don’t know the amount of work it takes to run a community. Maybe they try to take on too much without delegating jobs to staff and end up burning out. Or maybe they don’t give the community enough direction, as oftentimes, just having a creative design is not enough. There are many things to consider!

✦ As a Buyer

Adopts can be obtained in a variety of ways, whether it be flat sale, auction, offer-to-adopt, raffle, or more! Flat sales are one of the most common methods. This is a one-time payment of a preset amount as determined by the artist. Usually, they are first-come-first-serve and you’ll need to pay within a certain time limit, otherwise the artist will contact the next buyer in line. Another common method is auctions, in which you bid against others to win the design. Auctions have their own starting bids (the lowest amount you can bid), minimum increases (the lowest amount you must raise on top of the previous bid), and sometimes an autobuy (a higher price tag that you can pay to skip bidding). Offer-to-adopt means the artist wants you to offer what you think is fair; this can be money, other currencies, art, or characters. More often than not, artists will give you a guideline of what they’re looking for in the description, so please read carefully!
Most designers take payment via PayPal, so it’s recommended you make an account if you want to get into the adoptables game. New to PayPal? Check out this comprehensive post, A Beginner’s Guide to Buying with PayPal, to get started!
Terms of service — often abbreviated as ToS — are legal agreements between the service provider (the designer in this case) and the client (you). Most artists have a written ToS linked somewhere on their pages, submission descriptions, or PayPal invoices. By using their service or purchasing a design from them, you automatically agree to follow all the rules stated in the document. These terms are important because they protect both the artist and you by providing clear guidelines for both parties. The more specific a ToS is, the more security it offers!
Your rights depend on the statements within the ToS. In general, most of them state that you receive the rights to the character design only, meaning you cannot claim to be the original designer or artist — because you’re not. In the case of original species, there might also be a statement saying that you do not receive any rights to the species itself but have partial rights to the community. You do, however, have full rights to the character’s development — in terms of backstory, personality, etc. — and artists cannot revoke a design that you’ve fully paid for. These are the most basic rights within the adoptables community but your additional rights will vary from artist to artist, depending on what you agreed to in their ToS. These may address commercial usage, purchase refusal, crediting, and much more.
This is a piece of evidence that proves you own the design. There are many forms of proof, one of them being a screenshot of your paid invoice. When you pay for an adoptable via invoice, the artist may notate which one you’re adopting; if they do not include this information, you’ll need to screenshot the entire conversation, from claim to payment, as proof of purchase. In cases where the designer gives you their PayPal email and asks you to send the payment yourself, there is a description box for you to input the adoptable information. Important notes to include would be the artist’s username, your username, and a link to the submission. Always pay via the “pay for goods or services” option and mark “no address needed” for delivery. For a step-by-step and detailed explanations, check out the beginner’s guide linked in an earlier question!
A customer disputes a payment to ask for a refund by filing a chargeback. Normally, clients might file a chargeback if they didn’t receive their item, the item was damaged, or if they were charged for a payment they didn’t authorize. Unfortunately, in the adoptables community, chargebacks are largely filed by scammers in an attempt to get back the money they paid for an adoptable. Sometimes these chargebacks go through, sometimes they don’t. Nonetheless, scamming is an absolutely horrible practice, and artists usually block those who even attempt to do so. In the case of a successful chargeback where the scammer gets their money back, the designer has the right to revoke the adoptable. This is the only acceptable reason for an artist to take their design back, because payment was undone, therefore, not received; this allows the creator to resell the design in order to make up for what they lost.
The short answer is yes, you may. However, artists may place restrictions on ownership transfers. A common restriction is that you may not resell a design for more than you paid for. This rule is usually set to protect potential buyers. Another rule may be that you need to notify the artist about any transfers in ownership; for example, if you trade or give a design to a friend, you’ll need to let the designer know where it’s gone. Again, please go over an artist’s terms of service, as transfer rules may vary!
Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to take advantage of you, especially if you’re new to the adoptables game. When buying from a designer, always save proofs of purchase; well-known designers probably aren’t going to try to scam you, but they’ve probably sold hundreds of designs and won’t remember who bought each of them! If you’re buying a design second hand — purchasing from someone who’s not the original designer — it’s good practice to ask them for proof of purchase if they don’t automatically provide it; in the case of closed species, this can easily be done by providing you a link to their masterlist entry, though you should also make it a habit to check there first for yourself. There are many more things you should watch out for — ie, purchasing from blank accounts that have little prior activity — but you’ll quickly get the hang of it!

✦ ARPGs

ARPG is short for “art role-playing game.” Think Neopets but instead of virtual pets, you’re collecting customizable characters. Also, in lieu of playing games to earn currency for pet upgrades or other items, you’ll be making art! If you’re unfamiliar with pet sites, consider RPGs in terms of video games such as MapleStory. Let’s say there’s a quest for you to kill 100 Slimes for a reward. In an ARPG, there may be a similar quest that asks you to depict your character taking down a couple Slimes; of course, the prompt is scaled down since it probably takes more effort to create art than repeatedly button-mash! Basically, instead of clicking buttons, you’d draw (write, sculpt, compose, etc.) to get what you want.
First off, you’ll have to find one you like! ARPGs are a rapidly growing subsect of the adoptables community, most of which popped up after the appearance of original species. DeviantArt is a good place to begin your search, as many communities get their start there. Some ARPGs will ask you to join their DeviantArt group while others will require you to make an account on their personal website. Most have overviews or tutorials to help you get started, so look for something like that linked on their page. However, before you get too excited and immediately join a group, look through the species first; you’ll probably be drawing a lot of said species so make sure you like them! If you want some multi-species ARPG recommendations, you can check out Lythbound (that’s us), Celestial Seas, or Hanging Lights!
There’s really no “winning” in ARPGs! Sure, you can win contests, raffles, and other events but there is no end-game per se. Again, like Neopets or MapleStory, you can reach a goal set by yourself (obtain all your dream pets) or by the game (the level cap in MapleStory is currently 275), but you can keep playing other parts of the game! The same goes for ARPGs; you can evolve your character into their final forms or max out all your characters’ stats, but you can always keep going! Unlike pet sites or RPGs, however, ARPGs also have a never-ending quest line: improvement of art. No matter what your craft is, these groups will challenge you with a variety of prompts, helping you to strengthen what you know, hone skills you lack in, or explore mediums you’ve never thought to try!

✦ Additional Information

Because of the emergence of original species, the term “one-off” is used to designate an adoptable that the designer has no intention of creating a community around.
A custom is when an artist creates a design for the client based on the client’s guidelines. It is the opposite of a pre-made design — an adoptable that the artist designs on their own — in that you can provide as much or as little information as you’d like for the designer to work off of.
In the adoptables community, scalping is a strategy scammers use in order to make a profit off of a design they bought. They usually buy from popular designers or original species, then turn around and sell the adoptable at a higher price to a second-hand buyer. This is why many artists and species communities state in their ToSs that clients cannot sell a design for more than its original price point, as a means to prevent such terrible practices. You can further protect yourself from scalping by asking for proof of purchase or checking the species masterlist. It’s helpful to notify the original designer and community managers of potential scalpers among their clientele and memberbase. Though before you accuse someone of scalping, ask the second-hand seller if the design comes with additional artwork! Some ToSs allow commissions to be added onto a design’s original price, since additional money was spent on collecting the artwork.
Toyhou.se is a popular character repository. Many designers have a Toyhou.se, so if you upload a character you bought from them and credit them as the creator, they can verify that you are indeed the owner; vice versa, some will ask you if you have a Toyhou.se, because they’ve already set up an entry for the character and can just transfer it to you. This is a really good way to show proof of purchase, as the site automatically tracks every transfer ever made with that character. As of the creation of this document (April 2020), Toyhou.se is currently still in beta, so you must have an invite code in order to make an account. Fortunately, premium users receive invite codes for their support of the site, so there are many codes to go around; just look for the postings!