Fresh off completing EoW we jumped into Beta Set as we then called The Shadow’s Embrace. We’d learned a few things from the prior set and wanted to implement some changes. We had less artists as well as fewer brand new artists to help maintain some quality control. We brought back artists we knew could handle increased workloads and still produce, and the artists that we liked but struggled with the number of assignments just received a decrease their workload.
Knowing this set was going to have an increased number of Colonies locations we finally put out our art gallery for the artists, complete with a Colonies and Rokugan sections so they could get a better look at what the differences were. Assignments were specific about the locations they were to take place in. We also tried to feature established characters more. We have Champions in events like Naleesh, Nitoshi and Kisada, named characters in actions and holdings like Shosuro Nobu, Daigotsu Kazuko, Sakti, Bayushi Waru, Kitsuki Nobane and one that I can’t name yet but the Crab will love. The goal was to include established personalities to add to the richness of the world by showing them as interactive and dynamic. It was better for the artists as well, instead of having to design a new random character that might never be seen again, we get to see for example Shen Fei’s take on Hida Kisada.
TSE had 198 illustrations including the promos printed with it and we employed 64 artists for the project. An increase in total cards but a minor decrease in number of artists from EoW.
Crab Clan: For the Children of Hida we knew the big story unique was Kuni Renyu so Drew Baker was immediately the first choice for such a high profile character. The design goal here was to show them hard at work, in action mostly in the Colonies. they had the Tower of Bishimon which was thought of as having been build in large part by Renyu as a location he could keep an eye on the surrounding area from. Chiisai being a full on elephant from the Colonies had to be “Crab Clanned Out” to show a connection they had made to the local wildlife so we had Aurélien armor him up and get some jade on him just to be sure.
Crane Clan: The Crane design goal at this point was to show them in hostilities with the Mantis, this was a clear goal so many of their cards show them killing, attacking or otherwise messing with the Mantis. Wen Juinn was selected for Experienced Asahina Keigo as she was fairly undefined and his shugenja are amazing. Their stronghold was established as an influential and new locale for them with a rising sun establishing that it was only just the start for it. Wind was a common themes worked into the characters, where it was hair, silk, cherry blossoms or fields blowing, change is in the air for the Children of Doji.
Dragon Clan: Each Dragon character really was its own story this set. They didn’t conform too well to one single overarching idea. Hector Herrera’s Mirumoto Rokai for example evolved from cards in EoW where he was seen watching as his friend dies and then avenging him in another card. I liked the character so much we slotted him with Rokai defending a young student from a blast of flame. Togashi Kasuru was imaged up as an Ize Zumi who if given time could see the whole of a battlefield from his mind’s eye during his meditations, the price of course was that he was totally oblivious to anything else! Heather Kreiter’s interpretation of this is amazing both detailed and amusing. On the whole this set we wanted it clear that the Children of Togashi are being drawn ever more into the world and stand in it rather than apart from it.
Lion Clan: The Children of Akodo are in the thick of it, if there is a rising storm the Lion are chasing it down looking for a fight. The Lion are perhaps the most action oriented of the set with most in or ready for a battle. Mario Wibisono was given one of their personalities and her art has been spoiled on some of the pre-release imagery, she is an amazing looking warrior with a detailed mural behind her having just completed a strike she looks intent and focused. They also have perhaps my favorite nonhuman in the set: it is old it is cranky and it is bossing others around by Carlos NCT who brought just the perfect sense of character to the old fellow. Their unique of the set was done by Jorge Matar one of the few player’s turned artists, he brought to life an experienced character that I think the Lion will enjoy.
Mantis Clan: The Mantis clan are shown in most preparatory stances, ready to try and take on the Crane. The clan has a higher than normal number of female characters this set: Kosoko and Rukia, Moshi who essentially has to be a woman; Kanahashi as a second Samurai-ko magistrate for the clan. Kichi was really the only toss up. We wanted to test out Alain on a Mantis personality and he preferred a young woman so this set they received only two male characters. The most solid mantis appearance outside of personalities is the scout in Watchers in the Dark, a last minute emergency piece by Adam Schumpert which turned out stunningly well. Not only does it look great it calls to the theme of the Mantis getting ready to engage in a conflict with the Crane. The Children of Yoritomo are prepared.
Phoenix Clan: Phoenix this set has perhaps the widest range in art styles this set. From David Horne’s crisp clean realism to Marc Scheff’s wilder looser style they also had the best mix of new artists and older established ones. Agasha Kurou – the Agasha daimyo – was initially supposed to be the Personality fixed to the starter so we wanted David’s steady hand at the helm. Originally Kurou was to be summoning a wall of earth with one of his breaking alchemy pots, but as it evolved we wanted to leave the spell he was using on his printed ability as unestablished. They also had a pairing of cards Lessons Never Forgotten and Exp Shiba Kudome were we had a mini story of her losing her charge and avenging maybe not his death but a debt he owed. The Children of Shiba this set were shown to be out in the colonies as a force to be reckoned with.
Scorpion Clan: At the end of the set it was hard to pick who made out the best with their art. We think it might be the Children of Bayushi. With Strong showings from Matt Armstrong, Mario Wibisono, Chris Pritchard, Drew Baker, Sergio Camarena, and Adam Schumpert their illustrations have them in the middle of the fray be it in court or out in the wild jungles. The Scorpion Clan have what I feel is the most iconic image of the set Cowed and Defeated by Adam Schumpert, it is an amazing piece of L5R work capturing so much in one moment. We really couldn’t stop gushing at Adam over this piece and we’ve seen the reactions from everyone else have been along the same lines. The Scorpion (and Spider) benefit from the first of future experiments in chained sequences that cross personalities, strategies and sets with Shosuro Nobu engaged in a rooftop battle with his Goju nemesis Bunoro. How does it end? We have no idea it’s still going on!
Spider Clan: Taking what is theirs was the theme for the Children of Daigotsu this set. They are out to get a job done and no one else is getting in the way. We kept them highly aggressive and menacing looking. They are not taking any lip from anyone. Yamazaki is their high profile personality this set and Bob Stevlic was the first choice to bring about his experience version. Bob brings a gritty realism to his characters that we wanted for Yamazaki. The other big character is M’rika, the highlight on her has to be the “seams” in her suit, showing how the bog hag actually puts her person suite on. Mario was asked to balance grizzly and beauty all in one and did a fantastic job of it. Goju Bunoro is a personal favorite of ours, stalking his victim ready to unmake parts of his mind or life from a roof vantage point, you get a great sense that he is up to no good without even seeing a lot of his face.
Unicorn Clan: ’Heading out’ was go to phrase for the Unicorn this set as they prepare to spend more time and effort on defending the overland route to the Second City. The Unicorn get a very high profile character done by Drew Baker this set and it is a strong piece that is hard to not really fall in love with, you’ll know it when it spoils tomorrow. It is noble looking and powerful. The Children of Shinjo also get a nonhuman this set which was fun to select due to the type of nonhuman it was. It was selected because it is native to Japan.
The Shadow’s Embrace was a lot of fun for us to work on we hope you enjoy it – Adrian Burton and Steve Argyle.