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Champion Roadmap: July 2017

Forging a New Vanguard

One of the big benefits of class updates was they helped us better define and understand our classes. For example, using lessons from the Assassin class update, we were able to apply what worked or didn’t work to Shadow Assassin OriginalSquare Kayn’s assassin form, like giving him a slightly longer burst window but also more tools to weave in and out of the fight during his assassination pattern. The same can be said for the Tank update; as we honed in on what we felt worked for the Vanguard class, we saw a great opportunity to build a new Vanguard from scratch.

One of the key traits of a Vanguard is that they can choose when and where to start a fight. With that in mind, we wanted to make a new playmaking Vanguard that charged headfirst into tough situations and made the enemy team fight on their terms. We also really wanted to make a very self-reliant champion; expect to see a unique new passive that helps them build more than just character.

Look out for the newest Vanguard, who’ll be heating up one of the coldest regions in Runeterra.

Ornn Horn Concept

Champion Reveal: Ornn

Ornn OriginalSkin HD

More than most demi-gods, Ornn values his privacy. Dwelling in solitude beneath an ancient volcano, he stokes bubbling cauldrons of molten stone to forge items of unsurpassed quality. Yet from these depths, Ornn senses trouble; divine beings are once again meddling in mortal affairs. During the upcoming wars, the Freljord—and the world—will need a good blacksmith.[1]

Living Forge & Master Craftsman

Living Forge: Ornn can spend gold to forge items for himself any time he's out of combat. For convenience, suggested items appear in a special on-screen menu. Ornn can also open the shop manually to build any item.

  • Master Craftsman: Ornn and his teammates have access to special upgrades for select items in the shop. Each player is limited to one of these upgrades.

Volcanic Rupture

Ornn slams the ground, sending out a fissure that deals physical damage and slows enemies. After a small delay, a magma pillar forms at the target location, functioning like a tiny wall for a few seconds.

Bellows Breath

Ornn becomes unstoppable, shields himself, and belches out flames. These flames deal a portion of the enemy's current health as magic damage. Enemies struck by the final gout of flame become Brittle. Ornn's basic attacks knock back Brittle targets.

  • BRITTLE: When Brittle, enemies suffer a portion of their maximum health as bonus damage when struck by immobilizing effects. Immobilizing effects also last longer when used on Brittle enemies.

Searing Charge

Ornn charges, dealing damage to enemies he passes through. If Ornn collides with terrain while charging, the impact creates a shockwave that deals damage and knocks up enemies. This ability destroys player-created terrain.

Call of the Forge God

Ornn summons a massive fire elemental at a target location. It then travels toward him with increasing speed. Enemies run over by the elemental take magic damage and become Brittle.

Ornn can recast this ability to charge forward. If he strikes the elemental with the charge, he'll redirect it. The redirected elemental will then knock up all struck enemies, dealing the same damage as before and applying the Brittle effect.

Ornn - Gameplay

Ornn - Gameplay

Ornn prefers to do things himself. He dislikes bartering with the Rift’s merchants, so he forges his own gear. If he can't pin his enemies to terrain with a Searing Charge, he brings the terrain to them with Volcanic Rupture.

Ornn is a leader on the battlefield. He initiates fights on his terms with Call of the Forge God, then charges in, bellowing and tearing apart his foes with titanic force.

Ornn Screenshots
  • Ornn’s lane-staying power is second-to-none thanks to his ability to forge new items without returning to base. You’ll want to study up on early-game itemization options so you can quickly craft the right gear to counter your lane opponent.
  • Since each of Ornn’s allies can build one of his unique item upgrades, Ornn’s teammates effectively have a higher gold cap than their opponents. Someone should tell Nasus there’s a new late-game god in town.
  • Other champs who create terrain (Trundle, Azir) synergize extremely well with Ornn, since he can Searing Charge into champ-made structures to knock up enemies. Likewise, allies like Poppy and Vayne can pin opponents to Volcanic Rupture’s pillar.

Forging Ornn

By Greg 'Morgagedon' Lovasik [2]

Ornn splash concept 02

Some champions have a pretty smooth journey from concept to launch, skipping through the production pipeline with nary a blip or delay. Others, however… let’s just say there are a lot of traps on the road to champion-dom, and not all concepts manage to avoid them. Here’s the story of one such champion—a Living Forge who smoldered for almost four years before finally making his way to the Rift.


Four and a half years ago, Riot held an internal contest to create the next League of Legends champion. Anyone could submit a pitch; the best ideas would ascend to the top via an ongoing stream of upvote/downvote 1v1s. The top ten champs would then have a dev team assigned to them to explore the possibility of moving into production. We called it “Hot or Not.”

Player Support Lead Rammi “DigitalRam” Mohammed dared me to enter the contest and place in the top 10. With gusto, I came up with three champion pitches. One was really bad. Like single-digit-votes bad. Another almost cracked the top 10 barrier, but missed it by that much. My third entry endured two weeks of fierce voting, finally ending its run in second place. That idea? “Living Forge”—a warrior who crafts his own weapons.

A meeting was scheduled where designers, artists, programmers, writers, and I would meet up and discuss who and what this Living Forge could be. It was only after the meeting appeared on my calendar that I realized Living Forge was possibly the next greenlit champion in League, and that he might even launch in game within a few months. But the meeting was delayed, and rescheduled, and delayed, and rescheduled, and rescheduled… and delayed.

Finally, in late fall 2013, it happened. At the meeting, artists, designers, and writers threw out rapid-fire questions: Where did Living Forge come from? Who or what is Living Forge? What do we want him to do and be in the game? And, in what turned out to be a pivotal moment: How can we make him break League of Legends?

The answer to that last one was: “Make him a mobile shop.” At first it seemed absurd, but after much discussion, we solidified it into the cornerstone idea for a blacksmith-type character. Living Forge’s initial concepting meeting ended with a loose direction as to who and what he could be, and some hastily-written kit ideas. Nothing was set in stone yet, but we had good ideas on where to explore next.

Ornn Abilities Concept

Some hurried chicken scratch notes around possible kit explorations, late 2013

In the next meeting, we continued exploring Living Forge—and here the first of several surprises appeared. Turns out Art Lead Joshua “HUGEnFAST” Smith had also come up with the idea of a Living Forge-type character for Hot or Not, and had even drawn out several sketches of his creation.

Ornn concept 06

Pre-Development Ornn, several options, mid-2013

Merging the ideas was a no-brainer. With the combined strength of an idea people liked, some sick art to match, and the enthusiasm of the team, Living Forge seemed ready to enter prototyping, with a possible launch in early 2014.

Except he wouldn’t launch in 2014. Or 2015. Or 2016.


In 2014, Riot began completely reworking our champion production pipeline, with every in-flight champion either getting moved or ice-boxed (aka delayed until further notice). Living Forge, unfortunately, fell into the latter category. The new process for pitching champs involved attending a monthly pitch meeting, presenting your idea, and then either celebrating it entering the pipeline or heading back to your desk to incorporate feedback. Living Forge made several appearances over the next few months, each time receiving a few improvements from a handful of interested designers.

The burly blacksmith seemed like he was slowly staggering toward the finish line—which would technically be the starting line—when, in mid-2014, another obstacle popped up. It turns out we planned to use the “forge in the stomach” idea with the upcoming rework of a certain loveable (but not huggable) undead juggernaut.

Sion Update Concept 05

Rework Sion Concept Art, mid-2014

This type of bump in the road wasn’t new—at least, not in the champion pipeline. Many times, an awesome feature or new idea ends up working really well with a champion that’s already in development or being reworked. Bard’s meeps, for example, were originally attached to the champion idea that became Ivern.

Thankfully it was only Living Forge’s chest that needed work, but there was another roadblock on the horizon.


As 2014 wrapped up, in typical Riot fashion, we redid the thing we already redid and reworked the champion pipeline (although we still use this system today, so maybe second time’s a charm). In the current system, designers plan releases around a needed role or playstyle fantasy, such as “top bruiser” or “invisible assassin” or “fish tank.” This created a lot of clarity around upcoming champion launches, but also eliminated the need for public pitch sessions. Now Living Forge’s development depended on people remembering the idea and a perfectly-timed open position for a champion of his type.

2015 rolled by without Living Forge appearing in the pipeline. 2016 came and went, bringing its own roster of new champions—just not Living Forge. For a champion that always resonated with designers and benefitted from a strong initial surge of momentum, it seemed like the embers sustaining his development had finally fizzled out.

However, in late 2016 the Champion team slotted a new Tank icon Vanguard for development—but didn’t have a locked champion idea to go with it. League needed someone to start fights, live in the top lane, and change the momentum of a game at a moment’s notice. As ideas floated around, someone remembered an old chunk of coal that could easily be polished into a sturdy top laner and provide a unique, team-wide benefit. With a single spark, Living Forge’s embers reignited and he entered the running against two other ideas for the coveted Vanguard release.

This time around, the theme, design, and timing were all in Living Forge’s favor. The champ that started as a dare—and suffered years of hurdles, delays, and from-scratch reinventions—won this last popularity contest and finally entered the real production pipeline. After years of work, what would become Ornn was finally ready for the forge.

Ornn splash concept 06

Champion Insights: Ornn

By Nikki 'Bananaband1t' Brown [3]

Ornn Insights 01

Ornn’s like the endearing, grumpy grandpa you can’t help but hug even though you know it’s a terrible idea. Underneath that soft and fluffy exterior is a grizzled steelworker who doesn’t have the time or patience for your pleasantries. He’s a demigod who’s seen some shit, and all he wants now is to craft hammers and other practical things in the peaceful solitude of his volcano.

Oh, and probably eat spiced cherries and drink ale—two things he certainly likes more than you.

Ornn Insights 02

Most of what is known about Ornn comes from ancient Freljordian stories passed down across generations. Much has been forgotten, but surviving tales tell of a demigod who was born ready to tackle the world. Ornn never wanted to fight people, but he sure had it out for trees and icebergs and other natural landscapes. Nothing stood a chance against the young demigod’s barrage, until Ornn punched a mountain, and it didn’t move.

It was on.

Invigorated by the challenge, Ornn rammed his head into the mountain until it eventually yielded. Legend says all of the mountains and valleys of the Freljord were created during this kerfuffle. When Ornn later thanked the land for their good-natured throwdown, the mountainside opened up to expose its lava-y heart. The land had deemed Ornn worthy of its secrets and bestowed within him the power of fire. What he saw in the flames was a powerful catalyst of change, much like himself.

Ornn Insights 03

Blessed with the power of fire and armed with his own flare for creation (and destruction), Ornn became the most legendary blacksmith in Runeterra. And as his prestige grew, so did the number of his followers. The most dedicated were a group of metalworkers—known as the Hearthblood—who settled at the foot of his mountain. Although Ornn never showed it, he respected the Hearthblood because they worked silently and diligently to forge the best tools and weapons possible.

Unfortunately, the Hearthblood’s fate was not a happy one.

When Ornn’s brother Volibear demanded Ornn forge weapons for Voli’s own brutish followers, Ornn refused. “Ornn has a much more humanistic approach for how gods should interact with people,” says narrative writer Matthew “FauxSchizzle” Dunn, “and he didn’t want to be a part of Volibear’s warmongering.” But Volibear wasn’t really the kind of demigod to take no for an answer.

So all hell broke loose. For eight days, lightning streaked across the sky and lava spewed from the once-quiet volcano. The two brothers fought with a fury forged through a lifetime of sibling rivalry. When the smoke cleared, Ornn’s followers at the base of his mountain were no more than charred bodies in a smoldering village, destroyed in a battle meant for the demigods.

Nobody has seen Ornn since. Some Freljordians believe he died at Volibear’s paw. Others say he still lives under the volcano, either maintaining the molten fires of the earth or crafting a super weapon. But really, Ornn chose hidden isolation in an attempt to preserve the lives of mortals. He sees how gods interfere with the destinies of humans, and he knows now that this interference can turn deadly. “Most gods’ lifeblood is their followers,” says art lead Chris “Skeeziks” Campbell, “but this guy is like, ‘Please, do not follow me.’”

Beneath Ornn’s rugged persona, he’s actually a giant teddy bear who really cares…from a safe distance.

Ornn Insights 04

It can be difficult to identify a champion in their early concept art, since most champs go through a ton of iterations during development. But Ornn’s narrative and artistic direction after ideation were actually pretty close to the final result. About a month or two in, the team knew they wanted to create a powerful, animalistic demigod from the Freljord who makes shit and is connected to volcanoes. It’s specific, but it’s also the reason you can recognize Ornn in most of his early concept art.

Ornn Insights 05

Perhaps the most heated element of Ornn’s design was whether he should have tusks or horns. In the beginning, Ornn had walrus-like tusks, which was fitting—walruses feel powerful and aggressive without being evil. But with walrus tusks, it looked like Ornn might be more of an ocean dude than a mountain one. Wooly mammoths lived near mountains, but their oversized, curved tusks would get in the way of Ornn freely swinging his hammer… and Ornn’s a man of practicality.

Ram horns started to really seem like the way to go. For one, rams live on mountains, and Ornn lives in a mountain (close enough). Rams like to slam their head into things, and blacksmiths like to slam their hammers into things. Plus, Ornn now had an in-game ability inspired by the ram concept art, where he’d charge at enemies and smash them into terrain. In a strange way, Ornn’s ram horns became the hammer and the wall became the anvil… and the champion trapped in between became the malleable metal.


Since Ornn is League’s first blacksmith champion, there were a lot of ways to approach his gameplay design. In other games, blacksmiths are often NPCs who only exist to supply the main character on their journey. Ornn was never intended to be a part of the supporting cast, in either meaning of the word. “We didn’t want to make a champion who focused on making weapons that buffed their allies,” says game designer Blake “Squad5” Smith. “Ornn was meant to be a powerful vanguard who could hold his own.”

Ornn Insights 06

Giving Ornn the power to craft weapons—aka items—anywhere on the map fulfilled the blacksmith fantasy and the top lane fantasy, where you can sit on an island while the rest of the map fiestas. It was thematic, new to League, and strategically interesting: What does it mean if one champion can shop without going back to base? The biggest concern for gameplay was snowballing, where Ornn crushes his lane opponent and can spend his extra cash without ever having to leave the lane.

If Ornn were a skirmisher like Riven or Fiora, this passive would never work. They’d faceroll their lane opponent way too hard. “We felt comfortable going this route because if Ornn gets ahead, he’s more likely to just become unkillable than kill you on repeat,” Squad5 says. “He might push you out of lane, but I think that should probably happen anyways if a champion gets ahead.”

Since all new champions need more than one passive (/s), Ornn is also able to unlock a small collection of statistically-superior item upgrades for his team. This means his team’s top-end gold value will always be higher than the enemy team’s, which matters a little early on, but a whole lot more in those intense games that push the hour-long mark. “I tried to make the items as cool as possible without having to sacrifice too much power from the rest of his kit,” Squad5 says. It helps that Ornn doesn’t just give away passive stats—he doesn’t believe in freebies, so you still gotta work to get the goods.

The most primal and sublime element of Ornn’s power is his connection to volcanoes, so for a while, Ornn’s ultimate was literally a volcano he raised from the earth. He could channel power into it, causing it to randomly spew lava and boulders everywhere. This idea led to a different ult where Ornn basically created a reverse Nami wave of lava. “I’m not gonna lie, a lava wave was super lame and totally my idea,” says Squad5, “but then the team was like, ‘What else could that be? An anvil? Something different?’”

Ornn Insights 07

Skeeziks took the lava idea and pushed it to its limits, drawing a massive, red-hot molten ram that Ornn could summon from nearly a screen away. Early feedback was pure hype. When Squad5 added the mechanic where Ornn could smash heads with the ram to redirect it, the team knew this was it. “We were making an ultimate ability for a demigod, so it needed to feel epic as hell,” Skeeziks says, “something that would echo through the stories of the Freljord for a thousand years.”

If he could, Ornn would probably show his approval in the only way he knows how: “This is not wholly terrible. My hammer is better.”


Ornn, the Fire Below the Mountain - Login Screen

Ornn, the Fire Below the Mountain - Login Screen

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The Path to Hearth-Home
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SkinSpotlights - The Path to Hearth-Home

The Path to Hearth-Home
Dark smoke exhales, from the mountain half

And wind blows through hollow dells
Skies clear as day, shall soon turn gray
And you'll know, you're nearing Ornn

Barring your path is a chasm wide
Howls rise from fathomless pits
But close stands a bridge, frozen by time
And across, you'll soon find Ornn

River of fire, that scorches the earth
Belies his kingdom of stone
And steel sings its tone, as a god stands alone
The shaping hand, we know as Ornn

Sparks leap and fly from the star-fallen ore
Forging his works, divine
Bellows erupt, with unbridled force

No longer lost - the Mountainsmith, Ornn

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