Auctions are a perfect setting for adventure that is rarely utilized. Often in games the tension is lost because it boils down to "Do I have more money than them, yes or no". There is no tactics, no strategy, beyond "keep bidding till I can't".
I say good day to such a waste of tension and always introduce the ability to make auctions a thrilling strategy game.
I always make a pre-auction party or even just a period of mingling for the big ticket hawking of the McGuffin, and I make sure it is one of several prized antiquities on the block.
I then generate a list of a handful of 'serious players' whom are interested in several items. The PC's (through social conflict) can uncover which items the various 'serious players' are hunting, and maybe even the ceilings on pricing for each item, and on an epic success perhaps even the total budget.
The idea being that the PC's can bid on items they don't want to increase the price. If the other bidders spend too much money on the first items up to bid, they won't have as much to bid on the items the PC's do want.
The three bidders are the Baron Von Badass, and Countess leSnooty and the PC's. The three items are the Ming Vase, The Maltese Falcon and the McGuffin (PC aim).
The Baron wants the Ming Vase and the McGuffin, he is willing to spend 50,000 on the vase and has 75,000 to bid.
The Countess wants the Vase and Falcon and McGuffin, but won't spend more than 30,000 on any items and has 50,000 to spend.
The PC's have 29,000.
If they figure out these numbers they can raise the price on the Ming Vase to say 49,000. The Baron raises it to 50,000 and takes the vase. The PC's then raise the price on the Falcon to 29,000 and the countess spends 30,000 on it. Now when its time for the McGuffin the Baron has 26,000, the Countess has 20,000 and the PC's 29,000.
Had the PC's not engaged in bidding they would have lost the final auction. The risk being if they bid too high, they might lose their money on a useless ware.
Have any of you ever run auctions?
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