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.
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
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
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.