"Haiduc" is both the name of a game and a company. Founded by Mary Georgescu, this company largely focuses on tabletop games with interesting narratives. 2018's Play NYC had her company stuck up on the third floor of the convention area—a quiet place well-suited for narrative-based tabletop games, but also a bit out of the way. Come Play NYC 2019, and Haiduc is practically center stage alongside most of the other tabletop games. I caught up with Georgescu to see what's been going on with her in the last year.
The Old Haiduc Card Game Had IssuesMuch to my surprise, the Haiduc card game was no more. In its place was a handful of small books containing more classically styled role-playing games, done in the style of the old 'zines that would be made with copy paper, covered with a differently colored copy paper, and bound by staples. I thoroughly enjoyed the Haiduc card game, so my first question was what exactly happened to it.
In short, Georgescu wasn't happy with the mechanics of the game. Ideally, the card game should have had players thinking about the "grey area" of ethics. (After all, "haiduc" is the Romanian word for "outlaw.") In the time she's playtested it, it hadn't really worked out in the way she would have liked.
"My mechanics weren't really doing it for me, and they weren't sending the messages I wanted to send." — Mary GeorgescuSince then, she has shifted towards more free-form, narrative games that can really get players to explore the ethical grey areas. She had several different role-playing game booklets with her at the show, all of which were printed in the 'zine style.
Each of these books had their own separate gameplay rules and setting, and some of them are pretty darn interesting. Just take a look at this excerpt from the current version of the Haiduc role-playing game:
That sounds like a pretty compelling setup for an adventure. It's not terribly difficult to get into, either—the book itself totals less than 20 quarter-size pages. Throughout Play NYC 2019, people were dropping by Georgescu's table and playing her game to one degree or another.
WELCOME TO THE FAMILYYou are a haiduc in Romania. You are an outlaw to the nobles, but a hero to your people. You owe nothing to anyone but yourself. You live by your own code, for the laws of land stand to serve those in power and those in power grow plump in their greed. You’ve been aggravated by tax collectors who have begun arriving more frequently. Today, you tell yourself, that abuse of defenseless farmers and workers stops. Today that money returns to the people that need it the most. Today, no more blood need be spilt. Nor child go hungry. Nor [guardian] feel helpless.
You are here. ... And so are your friends. Equally dressed in the garb of peasants, smelling of the earth, mold, animal, and heavy plum wine. In your life you have made a reputation for yourself among the people and among your fellow haiducs.
To not act is just as grave as acting, you all agree on this. So haiduc, how shall we outsmart the hungry wolves today?
The Future for HaiducUnfortunately, reality often clashes with one's aspirations. At the moment, Georgescu is working on her master's degree, and that's the sort of thing that eats up a lot of one's time. Unsurprisingly, she's focusing on game design, a skill that she has been working with for years as it is.
In the meantime, Mary is popping out these little one-off role-playing games for her growing collection of fans and Patrons to enjoy. I sure do hope she wraps up work on her master's degree sooner rather than later—I'm excited to see what she can come up with when she can fully dedicate her time to a project. You can keep up with Georgescu and her work at haiduc.co and Twitter; you can also support her via Patreon or get your hands on some of her current games via itch.io.
"I feel like I fit right in with the narrative nerds," Georgescu simply said, smiling.
Check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2019 Coverage Hub.