Champion Insights: Briar

Thirsty for blood, hungry for life.

Welcome to Noxus. The home of ruthless warlords, expansionist dreams, and quite possibly your new best friend—at least, if she had it her way.

Briar isn’t your typical Noxian. While she might have an everlasting thirst for blood, she also has an insatiable hunger for something else. Life experience.

A Sanguine Story

Most of the Noxians we know (looking at you, Swain and Sion) want nothing more than to dominate their opponents. But killing things has always come easily to Briar. A little too easily. That’s because she was made for it.

Briar was created from hemomancy (aka blood magic) by the Black Rose to be a living weapon. She needs to consume blood to fuel herself. And boy oh boy, does she like blood…

The Black Rose made her sentient so that she could understand and execute orders, but there was one flaw. In order to kill her targets, the Black Rose kept Briar in a frenzied state. She was in a perpetual bloodthirsty rage. In this state of mind, Briar’s intelligence and vocabulary basically dwindled down to, “AHHHH! MORE BLOOD!”

An orthographic rendering of Briar in her frenzied form. Yikes. Chill.

“She really only went out on two missions,” reveals narrative lead Max “TwoWeevils” Folkman. “And both times she failed by the Black Rose’s standards because she was uncontrollable. She actually killed too many other people. So Briar knows that she was a failed experiment. That’s part of her burden now. She’s redefining herself.”

Briar not only killed her targets, but anyone who stood in her path. For the calculated and discrete Black Rose, she proved to be more of a liability than an asset.

Final art of the interior of the holding facility. Briar’s cell is at the end of the hall.

After Briar failed her first mission, the Black Rose put her in a pillory until they knew her next target. And after failing that mission, she was captured by Swain’s forces and confined to a cell in a holding facility. Needless to say, the pillory stays on. The device was locked by a hemolith—a gemstone with magical properties that helps restrain Briar and refocus her mind. The pillory was meant to be a permanent fixture after she was confined to her cell. But after some time, Briar figured out how to loosen the hemolith and unlock the restraint. Lucky for those around her, Briar enjoys the presence of mind that the pillory brings.

“Prior to being in the pillory, she was on autopilot with her sensations. Especially with her hunger,” explains narrative editor Elan “Qulani” Stimmel. “Her violence was essentially created to be a part of her existence, and after having that pillory put on her, she realized that this device was sort of a cursing and a blessing. Yes, a cursing [laughs]. You can quote me on that.”

The final 3D model for Briar’s pillory with the hemolith gemstone in the center that holds the halves together… for now.

She was no longer bound by her frenzy. Instead, she was bound by the pillory. She quickly learned to enjoy the mental clarity that restraint brought with it. With the combination of prison and pillory, Briar had time to reflect, but also to learn. She internalized her cell guards’ conversations, chatted with other captives in holding, and studied the strange insects that crawled into her cell. All of these outside influences revealed to her that there was so much more to be discovered.

“She was finally able to mellow out and start processing what it means to think and have thoughts,” Qulani adds. “Her pillory brought to her a period of reflection and learning—about identity, and wanting an identity of her own.”

Briar already knew the identity she didn’t want to have. She didn’t want to be a mindless killing machine any longer. And she definitely didn’t want to follow orders. Instead, Briar wanted to choose her own path and she was eager to make up for lost time. She couldn’t stay in the facility any longer.

This is when we first encounter Briar—well on her way to bigger and better (and bloodier?) things. But more importantly, ready to experience the world.

In her champion reveal, we meet an eager, bright-eyed Briar who becomes friends with the first person she sees—at least in her mind. Companionship and the occasional warm pint of blood are the motivations that keep Briar going, and they’re also what bring her back from her frenzy.

Nowadays, she’ll only break out of the device when she absolutely needs to—a blessing for her, but a “cursing” for her opponents.

Overall, Briar was a balancing act to create. The team wanted to build Briar around a loss of control, but they still needed to preserve a sense of autonomy. They knew she should be a champion with flaws, but not a victim; naive, but not childish; a woman, but not sexualized; enthusiastic about life, but not annoying. Briar has all the confidence of a fresh college graduate with the same penchant for awkward humor. Plus, she can shred you to pieces. And she’s beginning to discover her power and place in Runeterra.

Briar’s personality starts to come through in early movement studies.

Much of that power and personality was brought to life through her voice actor, Julie Nathanson.

“We felt so much better when we found Julie as our actor,” TwoWeevils says. “She was so great for giving us different kinds of reads for every line. It was actually hard to choose sometimes which ones we should pick for the game. She helped us find the perfect balance with Briar’s newfound personality and her frenzied state.”

The VO team collaborates closely with the NA voice actor to help inform how they finalize the character, both in writing and performance. That performance also serves to influence how other regions finalize the character around the world. Finally being able to hear the clear delineation between the blood-crazed Briar and her restrained personality in Julie’s performance was a big sigh of relief. And it lined up perfectly with her gameplay.

Unholy Diver

A willful loss of control was part of Briar’s kit from the very beginning. The design team actually had this mechanic in their arsenal after work on another recent champ with a nose for blood—Naafiri.

“Glenn ‘Riot Twin Enso’ Anderson was working on Naafiri when he came up with Briar’s W, her frenzy,” lead game designer, August Browning reveals. “You’d lose control and go rip somebody apart. That felt good for a dog champ, but it didn’t feel like an assassin, which is what Naafiri was always meant to be. Assassins want to kill their targets as fast as possible. A frenzied state needs some time to feel correct.”

So if frenzy is bad for an assassin, how about putting it on a champion who was canonically bad at being an assassin? Gigabrain move.

August and the team wanted Briar to be a diver and berserker. They took inspiration from the vampires of Eastern European folklore, not the sly, cunning Westernized vampires who chill in their castles sipping on blood wine. With Briar’s gameplay, they wanted to capture the essence of the monstrous, terrifying blood-hunters who ravage entire villages when they’re in need of sustenance.

So they got to work on developing a kit that brought this frenzied fantasy to life.

Early study for Briar’s movement and ability animations.

“From the beginning, she had a bleed, she had her berserk/frenzy, and she had her targeted stun,” August explains. “So those have all been present for a long time. But her E, her ultimate, and parts of her passive came later.”

With Briar’s E, the team quickly realized she needed some kind of off-button for her W (Blood Frenzy) so that she had some more control over her fights. That way, every time a player popped her W she wasn’t obligated to commit to the full rampage and overextend.

Briar also needs to feed, as she has no passive health regen. She only heals when she does damage (or consumes blood) to minions or champions. The lower Briar’s HP, the hangrier she gets. So watch out, because that also means her self-healing is increased.

And for Briar’s ultimate, the team experimented with a couple wildly different ideas. There were multiple versions where she would mark a target and just go on a rampage and tunnel-vision on that target. But there was also another iteration that the team was very excited about.

“At one point she had a revive, similar to old Aatrox,” August says smiling. “It was on her ultimate. When it was off cooldown, if you died, you would suck blood from everybody around you and you’d revive with a lot of health. But it also had an active use. The active was that she killed herself. She would do 1 million true damage to herself, but then obviously trigger the passive to resurrect and drain everybody near you.”

As you might imagine, a champ who moves like a bat out of hell, heals herself in a frenzied state, has targeted stuns, and does healthy damage, probably also doesn’t need to be fully revived once she’s finally killed. So thankfully, Briar’s suicide-self-revive-wombo-combo was quickly removed.

Briar popping out her pillory’s hemolith and kicking it at an opponent in an early animation study for her ult.

August and the team eventually landed on the current form of the ult—a projectile skillshot that causes Briar to immediately rush to the first champion it hits. Initially, this projectile only had 1000 range. But the team thought that since it was a skillshot, could be dodged like a projectile, and was a guaranteed dive when it landed, there would be enough counterplay to give the projectile nearly global range. At one point it was truly global, but the team nerfed it so that if Briar shot it from base, she wouldn’t accidentally int into the enemy fountain.

“Briar isn’t technically a hard champion to play,” August says. “But she does require some extreme awareness and good decision making. The best Briar players will be the ones who learn how to manage her frenzy state because she can easily get herself killed with her W and her ultimate if she isn’t careful.”

Like Briar herself, players should be selective when choosing to take that pillory off and let the bloodthirst take over.

It’s Giving Sweet But Deadly

Along with her backstory and some solid gameplay mechanics, a lot of careful thought went into Briar’s visual representation in the game. Lead concept artist, Sunny “Kindlejack” Pandita, worked hard to insert the right balance of Briar’s personality and gameplay into her look.

“We knew Briar was going to have some kind of dark side that would be let out when she chose to,” explains Kindlejack. “We needed to visually communicate this idea of game design's (the idea of holding back a powerful, monstrous nature) so we zeroed in on the concept of a physical restraint. And pretty early on, Gem "Lonewingy" Lim actually did the first sketch of her in a pillory. We believed in that idea. She looked comfortable in her restraint, which immediately creates curiosity.”

Lonewingy’s first exploration of the pillory.

Kindlejack took the idea of the pillory and ran with it. He added some thoughtful, yet subtle, shape language to the device to reflect the brutalist design theme of Noxus.

Early explorations for the shape of Briar’s pillory.

“The general design of her restraint has these sort of nails and spikes pointing into the middle toward her head,” Kindlejack explains. “I really wanted to create a visual design that communicated the metaphor of keeping her mind under control. It was sort of inspired by those diamond-tipped head braces that you get when you have neck surgery or something. They’re literally drilled into your head, but for Briar it’s not quite as gruesome as all that.”

While Briar might come from slightly gruesome origins, she is by no means a dark, sad champion. And this is immediately recognizable when you look at her.

“Because she’s a very complex character,” Kindlejack adds, “the way that I wanted to visually communicate her personality is thus: Her face and expressions show a lot of her eagerness and excitement. But her feet and stance communicate her hesitance and trepidation on entering the human world. And then her hands—restrained at the wrists—show her inner hunger.”

An early look at Briar’s stance in the game.

At first glance, these details might not be something that you pick up on consciously. But on further study it becomes clear that the position of her claw-like hands, pigeon-toed feet, and eccentric face are all working together to communicate the main beats of her character.

But the visual metaphors didn’t stop there. Kindlejack played with Briar’s vampire inspiration in her eyes and even in her silhouette.

“For her eyes, I was referencing real-world medical photos of cataracts because I wanted her eyes to give you the sense of the full moon,” Kindlejack reveals. “It’s a vampiric thing, sure, but also the romance of the full moon is generally a gothic thing. So she’s got these kind of milky white opaque eyes that look at you the way the moon looks at us as it follows us home.”

“It’s kind of subtle, but with Briar’s shape, I wanted to give her thicker legs and bottom-half with a more petite upper body,” Kindlejack adds. “The idea here is that if she’s actually made from blood magic or living blood, she should be a little bit more bottom-heavy like an I.V. bag or the shape of a droplet of blood.”

A rendered portrait of Briar’s full-moon eyes and blood-stained hair. Aww, she doesn’t look so scary.

Even the ombre in her hair is a nod to the fact that Briar probably isn’t the most tidy eater. No, when she feeds, her hair dangles down into the pool of blood surrounding her meal. 

But if we’re being honest, it gives her a fresh look (just in time for fall) and it absolutely slays—literally.

“Briar is about unapologetically being yourself,” Kindlejack adds. “She’s not embarrassed or afraid of her nature, but she knows she can be more. She's a character for people who want to cut loose, go all in, and have a laugh while playing a game of League.”