Without a doubt, covers are one of my favorite parts of all that I do.

From the first time I saw Michael Whelan’s White Dragon cover, to the first time I walked into a hobby store (old Desert Hobbies in Tempe, AZ at McClintock and Price) and saw the Warhammer on that bright, flame-orange background of the Second Edition box set, covers have always immersed me more than almost anything else about a universe.

Even when I’ve really nothing to do getting a cover done, I’m still excited to see one come in. But when I get to create the art notes and then watch a wonderful artist (along with Brent’s crazy art direction talents) bring my words to life…always a magical experience.

When I started the Handbooks, not only did I really want to make them stand out, but I also wanted to ensure that we’d have ‘mini covers’ to convey as much of what makes a house a House as we could; hence the 4-panel montages.

So when thinking about the art notes for the cover of Handbook: House Liao, it was about trying to do just that…four panels that would together evoke-at-a-glance all that makes Liao cool and/or it’s most recent seminal events.

[Note: Please note that the following text is taken directly from an internal word document and was never meant to be published publicly, so there’s not the “editing/grammer” care taken that a public document would go through, while the direct sourcebook excerpts are from documents that have not yet gone through final proofing.]


This will follow the same format as the previous four Handbooks, with a mosaic of four images centered around the House Liao logo.

Each illustration should be 3.863 inches width and 4.2 inches height at 300 dpi so they fit the established dimensions for our Handbook covers.

Note that the House Liao logo sword cuts well out of the standard dimensions of the logo, so the artist will need to keep that in mind when putting together the cover so nothing is lost ‘behind’ the slash of the sword; i.e. who wever you have do it, they (or you, or Ray) should mock up the cover so they can see exactly what all the graphic elements will do to the illustrations, so as little is lost aspossible

All references are in the “House Liao Cover” folder in the Handbook: House Liao folder on the ftp site.


A Ti Ts’ang BattleMech, still sporting the gray primer of ‘just off the line’ stepping past the darkened interior of a giant manufacturing facility, stark light almost haloing it to provide a great lighting contrast. In a classic “airport” scene, a man wearing reflective clothing is walking in front of it, lighted cones swinging in his hands as though directing the ‘Mech; i.e. to reflect this isn’t a ‘real’ MechWarrior at the helm but a man with just enough training to move ‘Mechs around a manufacturing center.

Art Note: The following link provides photo reference for the Ti Ts’ang:



A lone Victor BattleMech—sporting a standard camo scheme for the terrain and a House Davion logo—standing guard as a Geinah-Druapaq Cargo Train rumbles past on a prairie, the sun starting to set. In the illustration, the last rays of the setting sun catches a Death Commando in mi-leap from his secret location on top of the train’s front cabin towards the back of the BattleMech.

He intends to scale the ’Mech, detonate charge next to the cockpit and get inside and eliminate the warrior, all the while the sound and heavy vibrations of the passing land train covering his movements.

Art Note: The following link provides photo reference for the Victor:


Protector Shraplen of the Taurian Concordat signs the Trinity Alliance in 3062. The signing takes place in a room from the “Trinity Alliance Signing Room” illustration reference; obviously it’s rebuilt.

The illustration should show a ‘over the shoulder’ profile of the man (so you catch a glimpse of his face) signing a treaty. This should be a big old fashion treaty; a huge pile of bound papers, festooned with ribbons, nobility-markings and so on.

Across the table in a sumptuous chair (almost throne-like, though it needs to be moveable) sits Sun-Tzu Liao in all his finery (see Sun-Tzu Liao_clothing002), face serene but eyes glowing with power…unlike the rest of the Great Houses, House Liao power is in manipulation…this is HIS arena.

Next to the chair stands Emma Centrella, face slightly troubled. Her innate fear of binding the Periphery to the Great Houses warring with what she believes is a better path for both her nation (Magistracy of Canopus) and the Taurian Concordat (Shraplen).


The following excerpt is from the novel Binding Force:

House Hiritsu Stronghold
Sian Commonality, Capellan Confederation
24 April 3047

A sharp kick just behind his right knee made the leg buckle. Aris Sung fell heavily to both knees just as the main doors were swung open by muscular guards who must have heard their House Master approaching. Then he felt the steel of two katana blades pressing down hard from behind, one on each shoulder, to keep him from trying to rise. The wielder of the blade pressing down on his right shoulder sawed with his weapon, ever so slightly, to cut through Aris’ tight-fitting black shirt and into the flesh beneath. Aris clenched his jaw against the pain and kept his eyes focused on the doors, waiting to see the person he had gambled his life to meet.

A woman entered, dressed in silk robes of a green so dark they were almost black. She walked with strength and purpose to her step. Her long dark hair showed a touch of iron gray at each temple, and her high cheek¬bones and slightly uptilted eyes spoke of her Asian ancestry. Late thirties, he judged, only because he knew how to look. This woman had that ageless quality of so many Asians, though it might have had less to do with genetics and more to do with her indomitable will. It was as if not even time dared presume too much in her presence.

The room was simply constructed and furnished, even though it was part of the largest stronghold on Randar. Aris had had the devil’s own time getting over the outer walls, which were built of steel-reinforced ferrocrete and designed to keep out BattleMechs. Then in avoiding patrols and passing through armored doors. Now he was where he’d risked all to be, in this room trimmed in hardwood polished to such a sheen that the grain seemed to dance in the light of the lamps. Most of the seating consisted of mats of woven rushes. Against one wall, however, was a plat¬form too low to be called a dais, though what sat on it could definitely be construed as a throne. On it was a bench seat, which Aris guessed to be constructed of dark linwood. It was hand-carved with intricate designs and cushioned with pillows of a green satiny cloth.

And on the wall above the seat, an empty sword rack.

The woman stepped up onto the platform and quietly stared up at the empty rack for a long moment. Aris Sung counted thirteen drops of blood seeping beyond the dark cloth of his shirt and trickling down his right side. A good omen, he decided. He had recently turned thirteen years of age.

The woman settled herself onto the bench seat, arranging her robes about her as if in afterthought. Not a word had yet been spoken by anyone. Aris was sure his throat would be slit before he could utter a sound should he open his own mouth. So he waited, meeting her icy sap¬phire eyes with a determined gaze of his own. He willed himself not to blink, carefully widening and relaxing his eyelids.

Neither one of them moved for half a minute, and then Aris took his first calculated risk. He straightened his back, slowly so as not to invite a deeper cut into his right shoulder. Then he rocked back, jaw set against the pain as he unavoidably forced a deeper cut, until resting comfortably against his own calves. Adjusting his posture from defeated slump to comfortable meditation.

This final panel is an attempt to bring out the coolness of the Warrior Houses of the Capellan Confederation. My thinking is that you’d be looking over the shoulder of Aris Sung (whose 13), and Ty Wo Non (the man holding the swords against his shoulders) and on to the woman sitting on the chair. As such you don’t really need to know what either of the men look like and her description is fairly well covered in the excerpt; along with her clothing.

Aris clothing is covered above and theother an should be wearing a green with black Asian-esk jump suit.

To me this scene encapsulates all that it means to be Capellan. That you are not born a citizen…that you must earn that priveldge. That at an age when most other Houses still have their children playing, House Liao is indoctrinating them into the service of the State.


As with the previous four parts, art references, art references, art references. What do you expect after 25 years, rights? [The name below is the file name I gave it for clarity, while the information in brackets is its original source; again, no page references].

Emma Centrella_Age53_Clothing [Inner Sphere]
Emma Centrealla_Age53 [Shattered sphere]
Gienah-Durapaq Elite Series 3 Cargo Train [Technical Readout: Vehicle Annex]
Grover Shraplen_Ageasof3059 [The Periphery Sourcebook, 2nd]
House Liao Death Commando [House Liao Sourcebook]
Sun-Tsu Liao_clothing [Mechwarrior Third Edition]
Sun-Tzu Liao_Age20 [BattleTech TCG]
Sun-Tzu Liao_Age30_Clothing [Inner Sphere]
Sun-Tzu Liao_Age30 [Shattered Sphere]
Ti Ts’ang BattleMech [Technical Readout: 3060]
Trinity Alliance Signing Room [Handbook: Major Periphery States]
Victor BattleMech [Technical Readout: 3050 Upgrade]


Because of how Klaus Scherwinski works (the artist for this fantastic cover), we’ve actually got a lot more sketches to show off.

First is the very rough cover, for over-all composition of the four panels, and to ensure they’ll fit with how the graphic design/logo will cut into the four panels.

BT-HBHL_Cover_Full Rough-Placement Sketch_Preview.jpg


Next is the progression from sketch, through color sketch, to final illustratation for two different panels (you’ll notice Panel 4 deviates a fair bit from my notes, but that came down to Klaus making an effective argument that this composition creates a more dynamic/story-telling piece, which I completely agreed with):

BT-HBHL_Cover_Panel 2_Sketch_Preview.jpg


BT-HBHL_Cover_Panel 2_Color Sketch_Preview.jpg


BT-HBHL_Cover_Panel 2_Final_Preview.jpg


BT-HBHL_Cover_Panel 4_Sketch_Preview.jpg


BT-HBHL_Cover_Panel 4_Color Sketch_Preview.jpg


BT-HBHL_Cover_Panel 4_Final_Preview.jpg



In this last art notes blog post, I felt it important to talk about the graphic design/layout of a product. It’s actually very stunning how much the layout process impacts how good a book looks and how easy it is to read and find material. In fact there’s often cases where when I hear someone complaining that X and Y book are difficult to find info in, sometimes it’s not the actual organization of the text, but instead the graphic design/layout that’s the culprit.

And there’s no more powerful moment to showcase the graphic design of a book than the cover. Just as the cover illustration needs to knock people’s sock’s off, the graphic elements that bind the cover together need to be just as powerful. I’ve seen well-done graphic designs that have elevated an illustration to make it look even stronger, while I’ve also seen designs that actually detract from a cover.

Once Klaus turned in all 4 panels for the book, it was up to our intrepid Matt Heerdt to pull them together in a sexy look that’ll make it jump into a player’s hands. I can’t say enough good things about the graphic designers I’ve worked with over the years (Matt, Ray, Adam, and so on)…they’re constantly taking my hugely bloated texts and making them look crazy good.


Hope you’ve enjoyed these five massive blogs giving you a detailed look behind the curtains at the entire art process…and Handbook: House Liao is now available for print pre-order and PDF-for-the-insta-grab…enjoy!

Handbook: House Liao (Buy From BattleShop)

Handbook: House Liao (Buy From DrivethruRPG)

Or pre-order print & PDF combo.

See ya next time!



Comments are closed.