Ziv Plotnik


Online Nicknames
Eshmatarel, The Freelancing Roleplayer

Introduction and Platform
My name is Ziv Plotnik, I’m 23 years old, from Israel. I have been a roleplayer for over a decade, and I would like to submit my application to judge in the 2019 ENnies.

Although I have many diverse interests, my biggest passion is tabletop roleplaying games. I have a huge library of books, and extensive experience running many varied games.

My experience with different roleplaying games gives me many criteria by which to judge a game, and many points of comparison to discern if they are met relatively well or not.

Additionally, the Israeli tabletop community has a fairly unique take on several elements of tabletop gaming that grant me a unique insight while judging a book that will differ from those other judges may posses.

In conclusion, I hope you will consider my application. I would be honored and delighted to take part in the 2019 ENnies.

Why do you play/run RPGs?
For me, RPGs fill a perfect niche between being a creative outlet, a social activity, and a challenge.
I started playing RPGs seriously at the age of 12, through a nonprofit active in my city that promotes RPGs (both tabletop and live action), and creates a community around them. Finding a community of like-minded people with which to share an amazing hobby cemented the importance of RPGs in my mind. People from all walks of life can find common ground in RPGs, and in Israel, were politics and race are a very divisive issue, I found that they foster great understanding and empathy.

So while I started, and am still, playing RPGs because they are a very enjoyable pastime, I continued running them and promoting them (eventually being chairman of that same nonprofit for a year), because they could be fun for anyone and everyone, as well as provide a platform for inclusiveness and discussion.

The ENnies requires a major commitment of time and energy. What resources do you have that will help you discharge these responsibilities? Will your gaming group or other individuals be assisting you? Does your family support you?
I understand that the ENnies require a major commitment of time and resources, and I am assured that I can pledge both of those. Aside from a fair amount of free time (I am a student, and due to early completion of several courses doing a partial semester when the year starts), I always have summers and holidays free.

Additionally, I am unemployed and have no plans to pick up a job during my studies. I live with family and am under no financial duress that would prompt me to do so.

I do not believe that I will require assistance reading the materials, however I have a sizable amount of friends from various gaming groups that can assist me in running and trying the different games, as well as to discuss the material with.

Judging requires a great deal of critical thinking skills, communication with other judges, deadline management, organization, and storage space for the product received. What interests, experience, and skills do you bring that will make you a more effective judge?
Judging requires critical thinking, communication, deadline management, and organization. I believe that my professional experience in two fields enable me to confidently say that I meet these requirements more than adequately.

I served in the IDFs military intelligence for three years, and though it isn’t possible for me to say what exactly I did, I was required to use critical thinking skills extensively, always under very tight deadlines, and many times in actual emergencies. This experience has honed my ability to work under great pressure without compromising the quality of my decisions.

Additionally I have experience in education, where I am required to communicate with students, staff, and parents in a timely and clear manner. I feel that I can clearly communicate my thoughts and ideas in a way that fosters understanding in the other side, as well as explain any concepts or reasons i may need to in a concise and understandable manner.

What styles and genres of RPGs do you enjoy most? Are there any styles or genres that you do not enjoy? Which games best exemplify what you like? Do you consider yourself a particular system’s, publisher’s, or genre’s “fanboy/fangirl”?
Of all the RPGs iv’e played or run, those that I enjoyed the most were those in which the characters progressed and advanced themselves. The progression doesn’t have to be mechanical or material, it could just as easily be an emotional or social understanding the the character reaches. The specific genre I prefer changes all the time (especially after seeing a great movie in a certain genre).

For this reason I usually prefer games that are geared to campaigns over one shots, however if a game is geared towards one shots, but still allows the players or characters go through a meaningful process, then I usually like them as well.

Games and supplements I absolutely dislike are those that add nothing new to what already exists. A setting should have unique ideas or an interesting premise if it uses a standard ruleset. If the setting is unimaginative or ‘done to death’, then I would hope that the rules offer a unique approach or perspective to what has already been done.

As for personal favorites, I used to be an Exalted “fanboy” for a very long time, but I found 3e to be very lackluster, so my group usually plays a homebrew in the setting.

What games have you played in the past year? List up to 10 RPGs you have played the most. Which ones, if any, have you loved or hated?
In the past year I have played or GMed in a campaign (at least 4 sessions):
Blades in the Dark, Symbaroum, Mutant: Year Zero, ACKS, Vampire: The Masquarade 20th anniversary edition, Star Wars Genesys, D&D 5e, D&D 3.5e, Deadlands/Deadlands Noir, Fireborn.
In the past year I have played or GMed sporadically (one shots or less than 4 sessions):
DCC, Numenera, Threadbare, Shadow of the Demon Lord, Monster of the Week, The Dark Eye, Witch: Fated Souls, Exalted 3.

Of those I played, the following stood out positively:
DCC, Blades in the Dark, Mutant: Year Zero, Star wars Genesys.

Of those I played, the following stood out negatively:
Numenera, Threadbare, The Dark Eye.

I would like to emphasize that a great deal of enjoyment comes from the group I play with, so my opinions of these games may have been different had I played with other people. I believe that I am still fairly objective in pointing out what *I* didn’t like specifically.

Briefly summarize the criteria you will use for judging products in the different categories.
Rulebooks and all supplements – read through:
1) Clarity and ease of comprehension.
2) Organization and layout.
3) Art and fiction.

Rulebooks and non-adventure supplements – play through:
1) Speed and ease of character creation.
2) Time spent reading rulebook/flipping pages.
3) Fun and interest during the game.
4) Follow up feelings (players ask to play again, want to buy it themselves).

Adventures – play through:
1) Ease of running the plot, explanations given in book.
2) How compelling the plot is to the players, how much railroading is needed.
3) Fun had by players.

Art:
1) How eye-catching the art is from a distance.
2) How understandable the subject matter is.
3) My subjective artistic opinion and taste.

Cartography:
1) Clarity of the subject matter.
2) Theme and feel of the map compared to the rest of the game.
3) Ease of use.

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
I believe an adventures merits and flaws are almost completely divorced from the system used to run them. An adventure should be judged on two axes: Read through and play through.

Read through involves how easy it is for a GM to read an adventure, understand what the main plot points and encounters are, what feel and experience the adventure is trying to create, and then translate that to the table with the players.

Play through involves the actual qualities of the adventure: Are the plot points all relevant and interesting? Are the encounters fun? Does the adventure have a cohesive theme and story? Is it actually fun?

All of these criteria aren’t reliant on the core rules that the adventure is originally written in, therefor I feel it possible to judge an adventure whether I am familiar with, or fond of, its ruleset.

How would you like to see the ENnies change? What should remain inviolate?
I would like to see more clarity in the judging process, as well as documentation of those decisions.

I hope that explaining clearly what in certain products elevates them, what people like and why, can give the many aspiring indie creators pointers and guidelines by which to improve their own works. Of course everyone must be made aware that the judging is done by people, with subjective likes and dislikes, not gods whose words are law.

Additionally, roleplaying games are an ever evolving medium, and in addition to seeing each years winners, seeing the reasoning behind the vote could give a glimpse into how peoples tastes in games changes and evolves over time.

As to what should remain inviolate: The ENnies are:
1) Awards for tabletop roleplaying games and their paraphernalia
2) Headed by a changing panel of judges.

The first is the focus and vision of the ENies, changing it would make the ENnies pointless.

The second ensures that many different voices are heard over time, deciding what will win. If the Judges are a constant, then each year the winners may look alike in style, genre, and system.

BONUS: (optional) If you were an RPG, what would it be and would you play it?
I would definitely be an RPG about finding inner strength through friendship, in a larger than life high-fantasy setting, inspired by middle eastern, Polynesian, and Hindu mythologies.

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