Auction mechanics

Today I was pondering the character creation mechanics of the pencil and paper RPG Amber. In Amber, you play a super-human, an individual of whom all others are mere shadows. You might be the strongest person in all of existence, and your brother the smartest. That you are super-human is a given, so rather than give point values to attributes like strength, stamina, combat ability, etc., you instead bid in an auction with the other players for your ranking: strongest, second strongest, etc. Naturally, if you spend a lot of points in one auction, you won't have as many to spend in a later auction.

The auction is performed openly. All players know the current leading bid, and who made it. I started thinking about other auction mechanics, where the bidders would be partly blinded.

The system I decided on works as follows. The auction is broken into a number of fixed intervals. During each interval, the auctioneer collects bids written on pieces of paper (which would be initialled ahead of time by the bidders to let the auctioneer know who made what bid). No body knows what anyone else is bidding, only that a bid has been made. At the end of the interval, the auctioneer reveals the top bid for the previous interval. Thus at no time do the players know the current leading bid or who made it, but still maintain a feel for the way that the auction is moving, and have a moving lower bound on the amount to bid to win.

Because nobody knows what the leading bid is, the winner might end up bidding against themselves. Because points spent in one auction can't be spent in the next, driving up the price can be advantageous, and since all anybody knows is that you are bidding, and not how much, one can get into a bidding war with another player at no risk to one's own points. Of course, the other player might be doing exactly the same thing to you.

Bidding continues for a fixed number of intervals, at which point the auction is declared finished, and the top bidder wins the auction.

Variants in the mechanic might involve the winner of last interval's bid being announced along with the bid amount, letting other players know who is actually interested. Richard might not mind Gary winning the auction, but doesn't want Steve to win, and so might bid accordingly. (Little does he know, Steve has already decided that the auction is too rich for him, and is now just feeding dummy bids.)

If there is an interval where no bids are made, the top bid for the previous interval is not announced, and the next interval becomes the final interval.