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Interview with artist and author Keith Senkowski

Posted on February 4, 2005 by Flames

How did you get into gaming?

Well my first experience was with a choose your own adventure type book which had a character sheet and everything. All I remember about it was that it had a crazy looking snake-man on the cover with a scimitar and a black cover.

Then in high school I met some guys and they introduced me to DnD. After that is snowballed into all sorts of games and I had found my new addiction.

What can you tell us about Conspiracy of Shadows?

Conspiracy of Shadows is my first published game. The idea behind it was the question, “What if the X-Files was set in a world based on medieval Eastern Europe?”

The system is my attempt at creating something that can accommodate both cinematic style play and the grit of realism. I think I succeeded pretty well. In many ways it is a descendent of the games Sorcerer and Conspiracy X, two of my favorite games.

How did CoS develop? Where is it headed?

Well the game started development years ago as a home-brew system I used from time to time with my friends. I had no real aspirations for publishing it until I ran across some small press published works of high quality. I saw them and said, I can do this too.

The game is head towards at least one more book, maybe two. I’m also planning on continuing to write issues of my free e-zine, Exposing the Shadows for at least a year. I’m not big on source books unless they offer something that will help facilitate game play. I could write reams and reams of pages on the setting, but that really is just self indulgent in my mind. I would rather see other folks write their own stuff with the system and or setting, sell it and make a few bucks. In fact I encourage folks to do that if they want. I only ask that I get a peek at it before hand and a comp copy.

What can you tell us about “Polian” the setting for Conspiracy of Shadows?

Polian is essentially my Eastern Europe analog. I looked at the parts of Eastern Europe that interested me the most, researched like crazy and then constructed a society tweaked towards my own aims. It is a land filled with turmoil, both of a cultural and religious nature. Then I smacked down upon a rough, distant past reminiscent of Robert E.
Howard’s Hyborian (sp?) Age.

What can we expect to see in future issues of Exposing the Shadows

Well, I’m a big fan of tool-kit design so most of what we will see is going to be more things of that nature. I try to write things that can easily be used to create your own stuff or that can be readily plugged into a game. For the immediate future I am writing an article on four separate Conspiracies, an article on streamlining the weapon’s and damage rules, one that fixes the flaws in the alternate magic rules and a complete adventure. After that I have no real plan and will most likely write based upon feedback from folks.

What can you tell us about your work on The Shadow of Yesterday?

Well, I was contacted by Clinton R. Nixon (the creator of TSOY) after he saw my artwork in CoS (got to love acronyms) and asked if I would be interested in doing some art for one of the chapters. I work pretty fast and turned around the pieces in a week so he asked me to do some more.

Since then there are plans in the works for me to illustrate his first supplement (Yesterday’s Herisies) for the game cover to cover. He also purchased an article I wrote on cults for it. I’m really excited about it as I have not done a cover before nor have I worked in color for years.

As an Artist, do you have a favorite medium? Why?

I pretty much stick to ink and watercolor paper with brushes. It is something I discovered a long time ago and it allows me to work in a style similar to that of my biggest influence, Frank Miller. However, lately I discovered digital inking as a viable alternative when I am under the deadline gun.

When working with color I usually combine the black and white style with watercolors because they contrast each other nicely. However I used to do a lot of work with acrylics and would like to try mixing acrylic color work with my stark contrast black and white work.

What makes for a good night of horror gaming?

Oh man this is a loaded question. Okay I will do my best to answer it in short form. After all I am writing an entire book around “how to play a Conspiracy of Shadows game” which can be used to run any sort of horror/conspiracy game. The first key is to have a group of people that have a good sense of each other’s desires for what they want from the game and are willing to get into the game’s atmosphere. Also the GM should have a good understanding of what makes good horror/suspense games (not books or movies, though there is overlap). Those are the two keys, for more you are going to have to buy my book when it is done later this year.

What do you feel are the biggest differences in working for a big publisher and being small press?

Never worked for a big publisher, just a bunch of little ones, so I really can’t say much about it. Being a “Do it Yourself” publisher is a lot of work, but very satisfying. Everything is done on a very personal level. I fucking love it.

What’s next for you?

Well, like I said I am planning on working on art for Yesterday’s Heresies and continue to write issue of Exposing the Shadows. Also I am doing some touch up work for the cover of the Mountain Witch and designing the logo for With Great Power… At this moment I am writing the Conspiracy of Shadows Game Guide, which covers how to create and run a horror/conspiracy game like Conspiracy of Shadows, filled with all sorts of useable tool kits. Finally I am in the planning stages of a modern day conspiracy game called Resist. It revolves around the conflict between perceived reality and actual reality. It is a mix of the movies Conspiracy Theory, Seven and Fight Club. I’m really excited about it as it will be my most ambitious project yet, both artistically and as a designer.

For more on Keith Senkowski’s art and Conspiracy of Shadows, visit the Bob Goat Press Website.

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