Champion Insights: Kindred, the Eternal Hunters

By fizzNchips

The guys and gals in champion ideation start off with a simple enough goal: create something that League hasn’t seen before within the parameters of a pre-existing role. In Kindred’s case, they were tasked with making a new marksman-style damage dealer who could go toe-to-toe in the jungle. Here’s how they went from blank page to the twin prowling specters of death about to stalk the Fields of Justice.


Game design notes

by Jordan Anton aka RiotWrekz

Designing a marksman who could head into the jungle came with a bunch of unique challenges, but not because it was a completely new concept. Truth is, we’d seen players crowbar other ranged champs into the jungle before, and by paying attention to where they struggled, we ended up with a pretty good idea of what Kindred needed in order to succeed.


Macgyvering Jungle Marksmen

The ranged champs we’ve seen appear in the jungle - most recently Twisted Fate and Twitch - have been really gimmicky, and either dominate a game or do absolutely nothing. Their early ganks are often devastating (not many can survive invisible red buff ganks or TF’s guaranteed stun), but they’re pretty much useless if they fall behind, and absolutely need kill or assist money to keep up. What’s more, anyone familiar with either of their super predictable jungle paths will know where they need to be to kill or maim them, and because they were designed for life in lane, there’s very little they can do against strong counter-junglers like Lee Sin or Rek’Sai. These were all issues we had in mind when we started working on Kindred, and issues we hoped to address while creating the champ.

We’d seen players crowbar other ranged champs into the jungle before, and by paying attention to where they struggled, we ended up with a pretty good idea of what Kindred needed in order to succeed.

Enter Kindred

First off, we knew that we wanted Kindred to offer their team reasonable ganks - attacks that, if timed and coordinated well, could result in a kill, but weren’t guaranteed successes. By reducing the power of their ganks - specifically compared to Twitch or Twisted Fate - we were able to add power to areas where they both struggle. We made Kindred less reliant on money, so while they obviously benefit from items as the game progresses, they aren’t anything like as useless as the Plague Rat when he falls the wrong side of the feast/famine divide. Mark of the Kindred, for example, is a really snazzy ability, not just from the bonuses it gives Kindred, but because it adds a psychological element to a game of League that’s largely indifferent to Kindred’s strength. Whether you’ve been marked by a Kindred that’s racked up a 10/0 or a 0/10 score, you’re going to play differently. Maybe you’re about to get ganked, or maybe Kindred just wanted to apply a smidge of suggested pressure - you don’t know, and, unless you’ve warded supremely well, you won’t know until they appear somewhere on the map.

Speaking of ganks, while Kindred’s aren’t as brutal as Twitch’s or TF’s, they’re still plenty powerful, and will often relieve pressure even if they don’t secure a kill. The percent max health burst damage from a fully triggered Mounting Dread means Kindred’s ganks sting even against tanks, and the W/Q combo helps Kindred stick to their target as they make their escape. Kindred definitely lacks the hard crowd control that a lot of junglers bring to a fight, but the extra damage they bring in lieu of the cc means they thrive especially when they gank lanes that do have the means to keep their target from fleeing. So while junglers like Sejuani and Rek’Sai bring the knock-ups and slows the gank needs, but often lack the damage to kill the target, Kindred offers the inverse to that.


Mixing the meta

Kindred’s introduction brings the possibility of fancy new team comps built around a second jungling marksman. With two marksmen, the rest of the team might look for peel-heavy champions who can keep enemy assassins and fighters at bay, or pick up items like Black Cleaver to help both marksmen deal decent damage. Maybe they’ll focus instead on tanky frontline characters who pack a decent amount of magic damage - champs like Malphite or Amumu - to mix up their team’s damage output. The point is that a ranged marksmen jungler hasn’t really been reliably seen before, and we’re super excited to see the kinds of teams you guys build around one.

Finally, I can’t talk about Kindred without mentioning their ultimate. Lamb’s Respite is another ability that is effective regardless of Kindred’s level of success in the game, and again encourages teams to think outside the box in regards to their composition. Its death-defying zone gives sustained damage comps resistance to burst, which reinforces double AD comps and specifically rewards teams which pack in multiple marksmen. But even if Kindred’s taken into a more traditional team comp, they should still be able to offer their team plenty of unique tools along with those coveted ranged attacks.

Lamb’s Respite is another ability that is effective regardless of Kindred’s level of success in the game, and again encourages teams to think outside the box in regards to their composition.

Narrative notes

by Matt Dunn aka FauxSchizzle

We had a hook for the kit pretty early in ideation: a jungle marksman with the ability to “mark” enemy players for death and reap rewards for each successful kill or assist on that target. This led the team to explore several ways of expressing the champion’s growing power, and we landed on a relationship between two equals. This is where Kindred took shape.

It was ultimately one of Chris’ sketches - a glowing ethereal lamb firing a shadowy wolf from its bow - that piqued our interest. In fact, it haunted us. There was something darkly whimsical about this duo, so we decided to dig deeper. This is typically when the Narrative writers dream up a few story sketches to figure out who the champ is within Runeterra, what their powers look like, and how they behave. The first lines I wrote for this concept were a variation on their “choose me” line, with Wolf saying “Tell me again, little Lamb, which things are mine to take?” and Lamb replying bluntly, “All things, dear Wolf.”

Based on lots of discussions in the room, we realized that Kindred could be Runeterra’s first mythological representation of life and death. We dreamt up scenarios from ancient barrows featuring rough engravings of the Kindred masks to mark the sites as places of the dead, to a Mardi Gras meets Groundhog Day-style celebration in Bilgewater. Kindred’s stories were designed to build up the mythological foundation of Runeterra; the stuff of fables and nursery rhymes that children sang, blissfully unaware of the works’ dark origins.

These two animals: the stalwart Lamb with her ornate bow, and the shadowy Wolf with his tongue lolling out of his mouth, felt both quirky and ominous. I started researching the anthropomorphism of death throughout numerous cultures and found that many of humanity’s first known myths were centered around gravesites. The team agreed that Kindred was a unique grim reaper, spoken about in whispered tones by those who narrowly avoided death, and seen by all in life’s last moments. To help clarify what made the characters distinct, we took a look at what a Lamb’s death looks like in comparison to a Wolf’s. To accept Lamb is to rejoice in life and depart in serenity. To run from Wolf means a violent and terrifying end.

The masks proved pivotal to the champ. By having Lamb wear Wolf’s mask - and vice versa - we tapped into a yin-yang dynamic, which helped us crack their personalities. We gave in spades to one what the other lacked. In this case, Lamb knew much about the world, but felt very little, whereas Wolf felt everything, but lacked in the knowledge department. We loved the idea that these two never fought over kills, or were ever at odds, because, in the end, the Lamb and the Wolf are two parts of one whole.

The first lines I wrote for this concept were a variation on their “choose me” line, with Wolf saying “Tell me again, little Lamb, which things are mine to take?” and Lamb replying bluntly, “All things, dear Wolf.”

Art notes

by Edmundo Sanchez aka Mundo and Chris Campbell aka Skeeziks

After identifying the type of champion we wanted to make (in this case, a dual character jungling marksman), we entered open ideation, and started noodling on what these characters would actually look like. But, turns out dual characters are hard. We tried out a couple of ideas, but they trod on existing champions a little too hard and failed to get much support internally. Other ideas came and went until we found ourselves spinning our wheels two weeks into our four week ideation window. Chris, looking for a change of environment, headed out to a coffee shop for a while to continue sketching. A few hours later, he turned back up, and opened up his sketchbook to show us this:

Something clicked with the concept instantly. These characters - the fierce wolf and the gentle lamb - neatly juxtaposed with each other while still functioning and appearing as a single entity. Meanwhile, Jordan and Matt had made decent headway on a death theme, which was an easy fit with the characters: Wolf represented death, and Lamb, at least initially, represented life. And though it was never defined as the goal of 2015’s champions, Bard and Tahm Kench both had plenty of folkloric qualities about them that complemented Kindred’s burgeoning theme and look. Progress, at least internally! Then we brought the concept to stakeholders, and though they were super supportive, we ran into some tough feedback from other Rioters.

Bard and Tahm Kench both had plenty of folkloric qualities about them that complemented Kindred’s burgeoning theme and look.

“You guys are going to put a fucking lamb in the game?”

When we challenge ourselves with things that are new, that often unsettles people. And that’s a good thing. We ran into a ton of feedback as we started expanding our feedback sessions. Lamb and Wolf were super polarizing champions, and we had to fight tooth and nail throughout the process to get them pushed through. Though we were comfortable with the champion being contentious, we still wanted to refine and focus on the characters of Lamb and Wolf. We refocused them so both represented death, then gave them masks - masks of each other, actually - to highlight the duality of the two characters. Lamb wasn’t all good and noble, and Wolf wasn’t purely brutal, but they had aspects of each other that turned them from black and white characters to various shades of gray. We started treating them as yin and yang - two halves of a complete whole that couldn’t exist without each other. Next we turned to their animations, and again deliberately countered how people would expect Kindred to move. Lamb, instead of skipping around, became stoic in its movement, while Wolf became the more playful of the two.

Ultimately, we wanted Kindred to become a cultural archetype for League - creatures that truly embody the world of Runeterra and highlight how unique the world is. And here’s the kicker: we don’t even see Kindred as physical characters in the world. So far as anyone in Valoran knows, Kindred is just a fairytale, a way for some Runeterran cultures to rationalize or personify the mystery of life and death. As for whether they're actually real? Well, that's for the dead to know.

We started treating them as yin and yang - two halves of a complete whole that couldn’t exist without each other.

We’ll be back in a few days with more Kindred information!


2 years ago