Auction Encounters is the latest D&D 5e supplement from Tyson VanOverhill of Double Crescent Productions. It’s an extensive primer on everything a DM needs to run an auction in their campaign. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. There are auction mechanics, setting descriptions, NPC mechanics, item tables, pre-made adventures, and plenty more!
For the record, I was given an early review copy by Double Crescent Productions so there may be a few discrepancies between the version I received and the finalized version. And honestly, I’m glad I was because this was something I never knew I wanted until I had it in my hands.
Seriously, an auction is a really fun and unique setting for an adventure. There are so many people, items, and of course, secrets that can be stuffed into an auction. Plus, it’s a great avenue for your players to buy and sell magical items that’s a lot more creative than a magical item shop.
Auction Encounters does a great job of enforcing the 5e design philosophy of magical items being rare, and powerful, but giving the players and DM a way to introduce these sought-after artifacts. Of course, this kind of power comes with a price.
The Formatting Could Use More Polish
There is a lot of text in this supplement. Ultimately this is a good thing, but it’s jarring to read through the book due to how densely-packed everything is. Breaking up the text a bit more would make this a much easier reading experience.
There are plenty of pictures and tables that do a good job of making those pages easier to digest. I’m also a fan of the artwork and overall design of the supplement. I think everything works well together for sure.
Unfortunately, the supplement also lacked bookmarks which is a quality of life feature I genuinely love about PDFs as opposed to hard copy documents. This makes it inconvenient to navigate through the supplement, but it’s just over 40 pages long so it’s not difficult to scroll through it.
There is a small table of contents at the front of the book which does help with navigating through Auction Encounters. However, there are no links to each chapter included in the table of contents. I think including either hyperlinks or bookmarks would be beneficial to add in a future update.
I do have some issues with the formatting, but it’s the content of the supplement that we came here for. Let’s see how that holds up!
Auction Mechanics – Extra Work, but Plenty of Potential Payoff
I’ll be honest, there’s a lot going on here. For starters, when a player wants to participate in an auction they’ll enter an ability duel between themselves and the auctioneer.
An ability duel is a mechanic that Double Crescent Productions has previously established, but essentially it’s each side rolling a skill check and the roller with the highest score wins that round of the duel. Duels can, of course, have multiple rounds similar to how combat works.
Auctions have a bit of added depth to a typical ability duel, though. Here’s sort of a quick run-down on some of the additional factors that an auction presents to a typical ability duel.
Item rarity is everything in an auction. This determines factors such as how much the item is worth, how much the auction value of the item increases after an ability duel round, and of course, what the availability of such an item would be based on the location of an auction.
The rarer the item, the less likely it is to find it at a village auction.
The DM needs to keep track of each item’s modifier which is based on item rarity. This is then used in the previously mentioned ability duels between the player and auctioneer (DM).
The player’s allies can assist in a duel using certain skill checks to discern more information about the auctioneer or item, persuade the auctioneer, or manipulate the auctioneer.
The value of the item fluctuates based on how the player performs vs. the auctioneer in each round of the ability duel. Losing by a substantial amount will raise the price of the item considerably.
Certain NPCs can also affect how an auction plays out. NPCs can have unique features or traits that allow them to assist or hinder either side of the duel. These modifiers and effects will need to be taken into account during an ability duel.
Honestly, that’s the strength of these rules and mechanics, they all make sense. There’s just a fair amount of bookkeeping to be done as the auction progresses. You’ll also need to either spend extra time prepping or reference the tables fairly frequently for a typical auction. Thankfully this is not a huge issue since the two main tables are within 1 page of each other.
Is there a lot going on here? Definitely. However, I think these mechanics add a fair amount of depth and flavor to an auction environment. They’re a solid substitute for trying to emulate an auction in an RPG.
An auction can be an excellent setting even if the party isn’t at all interested in directly participating in the auction. They could be couriers, spies, or bodyguards for NPCs that are attending. There is work to be done and your party can focus on that, but keep their ears perked-up for something special to appear on the auction block.
My point is, even if your players don’t usually have much interest in shopping or peddling wares, your group can still get some mileage out of Auction Encounters. The auction mechanics chapter of the book is only just one part of the equation.
Plus, auctions are a complex environment. If your players surprise you and get into the auction portion of the adventure you could easily chew up multiple sessions on a single auction.
The Extras are the Main Event
However, there’s more to Auction Encounters than its rules and mechanics, even if those are what I would consider being the forefront of the supplement. For me, the extras such as the additional adventures and item tables were the real highlights of this book.
I found that the additional creature statblocks, NPCs, short adventures, magic items, and other additional content helped take this from a niche supplement to something that can be utilized multiple times a campaign. Especially if your campaign takes place in a city or somewhere that a substantial amount of commerce takes place.
Creatures and NPCs
There are seven total NPCs in the book that each have unique features and traits that can impact how an auction plays out. Each NPC has a full-page that includes their description, hirelings, traits, mannerisms, and aspirations as well as a black and white sketch of each NPC.
Any of these NPCs can be easily slotted into an auction adventure or any other scenario that involves commerce as they’re pretty-well fleshed out.
Each NPC’s demeanor does change slightly depending on how the party interacts with them. For example, they’ll react differently to a player winning a bid that they wanted than if they were attempting to purchase something from the party.
There are also three fully-statted creatures at the back of the book. Each of them is pretty unique, especially the shield mage which is my personal favorite. The shield mage is essentially a heavily armored wizard with some traits that allow them to be the ultimate bodyguard.
The creatures are a nice add-on at the back of the book and the NPCs are great to use in your campaigns or utilize as a blueprint for creating your NPCs for your campaign’s auction.
I was surprised to see fleshed-out adventures included in Auction Encounters but there are seven total adventures included in the supplement. The adventures are primarily geared towards low-mid level adventurers, but they’ll work well as a blueprint for creating high-level auction adventures as well.
Each adventure has a unique docket for its auction. The docket is shown as a table within the adventure write-up that also includes each item’s modifier so all of the bookwork for the auction is pretty much done for you.
The dockets are also included in the DMs Guild download as separate pictures for you to use as a handout for your players if you so choose. And yes, they are player-friendly. They show each item’s starting gold amount instead of their item modifier! Each docket is stylized for its unique adventure.
There aren’t any maps included with these adventures so they will require a bit of work on your end if you want to run them. However, they’re all setting agnostic and have enough information to save you quite a bit of time if you choose to slot one into your campaign.
There is also an appendix that includes ten unique items, most of them being magical items that the party can use. These items are all featured in the adventures included in Auction Encounters, but you can also throw them into your games if one piques your interest.
Keep in mind that this unique item appendix is in addition to an entire chapter full of tables of items that can be found at an auction. Some of these tables include consumable goods, property deeds, rare items, and livestock. Use the tables to fill your auction’s docket with more mundane wares so you can focus on finding or homebrewing magical items for your party to purchase!
Honestly, though, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of items in a supplement about auctions. You’ll have no issues filling an auction house with interesting goodies for the players to pick through or NPCs to bid on with this supplement.
Final Thoughts on Auction Encounters
All in all, I think that Auction Encounters is worth the price of admission. Tyson has done a great job of taking of a niche product and expanding it to feel like an excellent supplement that has content that could be used even outside of its intended purpose. There’s a lot of content in the ~40 pages of this supplement.
The auction mechanics are a bit daunting at first glance, but overall they do a good job of emulating what it feels like to be in an auction in a tabletop RPG. I mean, a bit of extra math and looking-up values in tables is definitely going to be a more efficient use of your time than trying to literally play out an auction.
The extras definitely sell Auction Encounters for me. There are plenty of NPCs, plot hooks, adventures, and items that can be used in other scenarios that I feel that you’ll certainly get a few sessions of material out of this supplement.
The formatting could use some more polish. There are a few instances where it felt like I was reading through a wall of text, but all in all, that’s one of my few criticisms with Auction Encounters.
At just under $5 I think Auction Encounters has enough value to warrant the price point for DMs. Be sure to check out Auction Encounters on the DMs Guild if you’re now in the mood to run your party through an auction or an auction-themed adventure!