The Five Peels of the Sigil Tout
Even the most clueless of primes has heard horror stories of berks being peeled in Sigil. With these stories fresh in their minds, new visitors often step through portals into the Cage with weapons drawn, plate mail securely fastened, and spells loose on the tongue. Many a prime has lost his life in these first few moments, but most are simply stared at until they stand down from their “dungeon stances.”
Other clueless, slightly more knowledgeable than the first type, stiffly walk in “marching order” through the wards. Yes, the dwarf and halfling in the front ranks can wield their axes and short swords, the elf and human archers can shoot their short bows over the dwarves, and the spellslinger and priest of Cuthbert are quite adept at casting magic missile and flame strike around the intricately timed prostrate archers, but they all fail when it comes to making a good impression in Sigil.
Before getting into the five ways a tout can peel a prime, let me first elaborate on three important rules of thumb when arriving in Sigil.
Rule number one when arriving in Sigil is to relax! Although the clueless who flash their gold may eventually end up in a pile in a back alley, for the most part Sigilians want to take your money with a smile. There are enough services and goods for the newly arrived to go around. Cutting throats and dungeon-style combat are illegal, often lethal for one or both parties, and most importantly, it’s bad for business and frankly uncouth.
When it comes to business, the first person, or more accurately, the first group that the clueless encounter are the touts. The tout often plays the role of tour guide, transport service, intermediary, money changer, and even pimp. Touts appear, seemingly through magic, with the arrival of new primes. They can spot a new prime blocks away and they have a canny intuitiveness that allows them to seemingly read the mind of the new arrival, sometimes offering services that the prime didn’t even know he needed. This is why we have rule number two.
Rule number two is to arrange to meet someone before arriving in Sigil. Without such an arrangement, a prime is forced to hire the tout. Touts will find bedding for a weary traveler, suggest restaurants and taverns, provide entertainment of all varieties and generally guide the traveler, but probably not in ways or directions he wanted. Travelers often find themselves in restaurants and inns that they had no intention of going to. This is because the prime has no clue as to the intricate economic arrangement they have initiated with the tout.
You see, clueless who hire touts mistakenly believe that they are the customer. Sigil is ripe with belief, and with enough conviction, all but one may someday come true. That one lost and worthless belief is that the tout works for the berk who hired him. You see, in reality the real customer is the innkeeper, the barkeep, the bribed guard in government buildings, money changers, prostitutes, you name it. The jink the clueless pay the tout is but a small fraction of the real compensation earned by this enterprising fellow. A good tout is simply one who has enough connections, that he can satisfy your wishes unobtrusively. Some have arrangements with every inn in the city. Some can make up arrangements on the spot, demanding a small finders fee from an innkeeper or barkeep.
This leads us to rule number three: Always arrange your destination and payment in advance. The prime may wish to stay at The Golden Bariaur Inn, and might even be shocked to find himself taken there directly. However, the tout is more likely to tell the prime that the inn is under renovation, that it’s out of business, or that it’s full. Often these excuses are lies. If one follows rule number three, the tout knows that you mean business and is less likely to peel you. For if he can’t scam you, he’ll likely want a hefty fee for his services. These lies and travel changes lead us to the first peel of the Sigil tout, called redirection.
Peel #1: Redirection
When it comes to payment, the prime may pay the tout a silver piece for his efforts, while the innkeeper pays the tout a gold piece for promoting his business. With such an incentive to bring you places you don’t want to go, the tout is likely to use a number of strategies to get you to the new location. First, he may talk down the place which you actually suggested.
For example, on a recent trip to Sigil I heard my tout exclaim, “Ahh yes, The Golden Bariaur Inn, I remember it when there were no cranium rats roaming the halls and the bariaur were required to empty their chamber pots daily instead of weekly.“
Other touts may take the previously mentioned strategy of lying about the inn, possibly claiming it’s full or out of business. The most base of touts, who lack the smallest amount of creativity but not greed, may simply take you to the inn of his choice and demand payment, claiming that this is indeed the inn you requested.
“No, don’t worry about that sign,” they say, “it’s from a previous tenant.“ The innkeeper is more than willing to go along with this ruse, as he gains nothing from seeing you leave. Expect the most inane of explanations and excuses, since they’ll believe that your head is reeling from your recent arrival.
Peel #2: The 80/20 Rule
This peel goes under the theory that the last 20% of a job takes 80% of the effort. This is the favoured peel for the thwarted tout. For example, you want to be taken to The Golden Bariaur Inn, the tout makes his attempt at redirection and fails after many attempts. The tout is forced to take you to your inn, but will receive a measly silver from you for his efforts. Solution? Dump you near enough to the location without going through the actual effort of taking you the whole way. He may drop you off at a sign that says “Golden Bariaur Inn” with an arrow pointing down an alleyway. The peeler will explain that touts are not allowed to continue beyond this point and that you are on your own from there. What you don’t know, is that the inn is still a mile down the street, and that mile may contain all kinds of dangers for the unwary traveler, such as ooze puddles, cutthroats, or worse, another tout wanting to peel you on the 20/80 rule, a variant that states that you can often make 80% of your money on another touts lost 20%.
Peel #3: The Relative
All long-term encounters with a tout eventually end up with the relative peel. The friendly tout, who up to this point has been honest and kind, wishes to introduce you to his family. No, not his wife and kids, but his uncle perhaps. This uncle just happens to own a carpet shop. This carpet shop just happens to sell rare Bytopian Shagwells. The shop is immaculate and upscale, the happy uncle greets his “nephew” with a hug and you’re promptly served with a cool glass of Dothion Grey Tea. You are obliged to sit and watch as uncle unfurls his many Shagwells, launching them with precision from across the room to where they unroll within inches of your feet. You nod politely, but the 10,000 gp price tag is a little steep, and besides, where will you store a 10-foot long carpet that weighs nearly 200 pounds? Uncle has thought of that, as delivery is included in the price. If you decline, you’re lead out of the shop, but not before being charged 5 gp for that friendly cup what is now described as “rare” tea.
Peel #4: The Factory
This peel is a soft sell disguised as a tourist attraction. The uncle who owns the carpet shop employs twenty Bytopian religious refugees that just happen to be expert carpet weavers. These poor folks, who simply wanted to express their religious beliefs, have fled to Sigil for safety from their oppressors. Now they make carpet for uncle, who pays them a handsome salary, although he can rarely sell their carpets. “It’s charity”, uncle whispers to you. Maybe you, out of the dear kindness of your heart, would be willing to buy one of these fine works of art, at only a fraction of their normal prices. Uncle will unfurl one of their carpets right after he serves you a cup of tea….
Peel #5: The Hard Sell
You will simply be taken to a place and given no opportunity to leave until you perform a certain action, such as looking at jewellery. This is most often used when hiring horses or palanquins, as the tout has more control of your movement. The kickback to the tout in these cases is so high, that they can afford to trick you or lie to you to get you in the shop. They are often paid by customer, not by purchase, so attempts at convincing them that you will never, as long as you live and the cleric can cast resurrection, even if the gods and The Lady conspire to make it so, and if all the factions were to come together as one loving group and beg you—even then you will not purchase Baatorian lingerie with the built in girdle of femininity and inverted breast spikes. Never will you ever be interested in this item you will tell the tout. But it is no use, because his uncle owns this store and you will offend his entire family if you refuse, and besides, this lingerie is hand woven by erinyes who have recently converted to Odinism and who, for no fee, will model this product especially for you. And besides, it will only take a moment of your time…
Source: Gary Ray