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Basic Information

An auctioneer is a person who runs auctions; that is, someone who gathers bids for some kind of transaction, starting at a worse-than-normal price and improving it by fixed increments until no one is willing to meet the new price. For example, when looking for someone to do some kind of work (such as a government contract), an auction would start at the highest price the person is willing to pay, then drop until finding the lowest anyone is willing to work for.

Fictional auctioneers are known for speaking at about a hundred words per minute, and selling anything that comes to hand with either no description or far more than necessary. For anyone who has attended a stock auction, the fast talking can be confirmed as a fact - and most of them rely on their bidders having viewed the lots ahead of time.


See Also

Game and Story Use

  • I can see using an auctioneer to set up a scene and introduce an NPC who I want the party to have sympathy towards (the poor widow, having her farm placed on the auction block). Alternatively, the auction can be a showdown between two rival economic predators (ranchers, land owners, business people) for control of a prized asset. We could introduce it as the climax of the campaign, with considerable sneaking around and dirty tricks prior to the big event as the two rivals jockey for information and advantage. And the prize (what is being auctioned)… may not be a prize after all….
  • In some cultures, the poor widow may be one of the lots - debt slavery being a common response to bankruptcy. In this case the order of the lots may be plot relevant - if the property and assets can be put at the top of the bill, the debt may be settled before the family come under the hammer. A more corrupt auctioneer on the other hand…
  • The fast talking auctioneer can be a form of con artist - this may well match the cliché of someone who holds up an item, gives a hurried description and then starts the bidding. One or more shills can help drive the price up as required. A big part of the trick here is to shift (apparently) valuable items to the shills early on so that the targets are given the impression that early and aggressive bidding is required to win - and with poor description and no chance to examine the lots or thing about them, the targets are induced to make fast, ill-judged bids to secure goods that are not as good as they appeared to be at a distance.
  • In some fantasy worlds, an "independent auctioneer", might be an appropriate character - probably a powerful entity with the ability to make and enforce sales for anything (including intangibles such as memories, dreams and chances) that are brought before his bench. Expect such a power to be too strong to rob without the greatest of heists and intolerant of deciept, bad faith and bad coin.
    • complications may involve all sorts of minutiae like exact nature of the goods and title to sell (or lack thereof).
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