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In Amber Diceless, stats are auctioned off in the order:

  • Psyche
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Warfare

What is the reasoning for this order?

A friend of mine argues they should be auctioned off in a random order. I see 2 issues with this:

  • It is inelegant to introduce a random factor into a diceless system.
  • Having it in a fixed order means that for devising a number of character concepts, in case fails to win a auction (that is key to some concept), you know what concepts are still available. For example, knowing the order, if my favorite character concept is based around Strength, I know my second favorite character concept must not be based around Psyche, as I have already lost that auction by the time I lose the Strength auction. (in this context, "lose" doesn't mean "did terribly" but does mean "didn't do well enough for the concept to work the way I want.")

I am looking for further/better explained insight into the order of the auction.

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I don't know any justification for this order, certainly not sure enough to call it an answer, but I always felt that the order was from weakest to strongest. The books (and examples in the rpg books) always seemed to suggest that "Best at Warfare" pretty much means "Wins". –  Ryno Apr 24 at 19:33
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All stats in Amber are by the authors intent equal (at least they are intended to be), "Every stat is the most strong and is winning it will make you unbeatable." This has been my experience in play as well. Not all equal for all builds, but a character who is built (and by built i mean concieved of) around any one thing is as good as around another. Now you have me thinking that it might be in the order of Conwan's (sp?? the main character) stats -- from lowest to highest. –  Oxinabox Apr 25 at 15:20
    
I know that's the wording in the book, but yet, being highest in Warfare means being able to decide what stat a challenge is based on, essentially... I could never find a situation that Warfare couldn't win. And every stat auction I've been part of has been based around that assumption too. –  Ryno Apr 25 at 18:56
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1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

What is the reasoning for this order?

In order to get to the reasoning we have to get everything on the table. Let's get the facts (primary source) out of the way first.

  • First appearance (unordered), page 8 ADRP (First Printing, 1991),

Role-Play Set-Up. [...] In Amber you start by bidding in an Attribute Auction that sets up the character's basic Attributes. [...] For example, the attribute Strength determines how strong the character is. [...] The other three attributes are Warfare, fighting ability, Psyche, mental power, and Endurance

  • The first appearance (ordered), page 9,

Attributes: These are the ratings of your character's advantages, and weaknesses. There are four Attributes in the Amber RPG; Psyche, Strength, Endurance and Warfare.

  • Second appearance (ordered and canonized), page 12,

STEP TWO: BID FOR ATTRIBUTES There are four Attributes that define every character; Psyche, Strength, Endurance and Warfare.

  • THE AUCTION, beginning on page 13

    The first auction is for Psyche, the next for Strength, then Endurance, and finally the bidding on Warfare.

    • Psyche, example and potential, page 14
    • Strength, example and potential, page 17
    • Endurance, example and potential, page 18
    • Warfare, example and potential, page 20

No explanation or justification for the order of these attributes is given in the primary source material.

So we must look to another "primary" source... the author.

Sadly, in 2008, Erick Wujcik, author of ADRP passed quietly of pancreatic and liver cancer. However, prior to his death, he wrote about ADRP and his thoughts behind the auction system specifically.

His words -- (full source thread) (secondary reference)

The whole system was designed late in the summer of 1986, after I had discussed the possibility of designing and writing an Amber Role-Playing Game with West End Games. It didn't take long, since I talked with the West End guys at Gencon (August 14th-17th, 1986), and the first play-test, with the first Attribute Auction, took place at the Michigan Gaming Center, before the end of August.

I was looking for a character creation system that would simulate the rivalry between Corwin and his siblings as presented by Roger Zelazny in the Chronicles of Amber. Neither of the two conventional choices, random generation or point allocation, seemed like it would work.

On the other hand, I loved the idea of a system where the players would start interacting, and even competing, even as they were involved in character creation.

Based on the books, it was pretty clear that there were four significant attributes. Clearly, Gerard was #1 in Strength, Benedict had the reputation for being first in Warfare, either Brand or Fiona was the leader in Psyche, and Corwin demonstrated outstanding Endurance throughout the series (growing back his eyeballs in record time, etc.).

The idea of a series of auctions seemed to fit, especially if it was clear that (1) the 'winner' of each would be, hand's down, the very best in that attribute, (2) that all points bid would be points spent, thereby creating a 'ladder' of ranking, and (3) that there could be secret buys afterward, creating the kind of uncertainty that we had seen in the rivalry between Corwin and Eric.

My biggest concern was that four Attribute Auctions would take too much time. Fortunately, they turned out to be a lot of fun, even in the very first play-test.

Fortunately there was a big turn-out, even more than I expected, so we had nineteen (19) participants, and some pretty spirited bidding. Psyche was especially crazy, with the top three bidding 92, 91 and 89 points.

Unfortunately, his words are only contextual. I include them in an attempt to be thorough and out of respect. I draw your attention to the fact that this quote mirrors the order listed in the "Role-Play Set-up" but does not match the order of the canonical auction.

There are no other primary sources that I or my group have ever encountered.

There are secondary sources that praise the attribute auction but don't speak deeply to reasoning. For example, there is AMBER DICELESS ROLEPLAYING: Thoughts at Non-Random by Allen Varney in Dragon #182, June 1992. (full article)

While I'm loathe to share it, one member of my group believes the following UNQUALIFIED Wikipedia quote offers some reasoning. While I disagree, I feel I should share it for a completeness.

The Auction simulates a 'history' of competition between the descendants of Oberon for player characters who have not had dozens of decades to get to know each other.

Another member of my group believes that reasoning can be found in "game theory" or more specifically, in Willam Poundstone's book, "Prisoner's Dilemma." While I find this notion interesting, I also believe that Nash Equilibrium is also at work. Therefore, I also reject this supposition.

I have explained to my group that I believe the initial reasoning for the order was a convenience of layout and/or a publishing decision and nothing more.

We have pondered and run "what if" experiments with alternate attribute orders -- and (for us) the deltas on the outcomes are insignificant. I have told my group that it is my belief that we have invested far more thought and time into the question of the attribute order than anyone affiliated with Phage Press ever did.

My group and I have researched this... not exhaustively but curiously. I am willing to be wrong, I simply don't have any better data.

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