Sweet victories come from risks. Even safe risks. The other day, I sent a crew of level 6s into the swine-infested Warrens, to obtain a particular precious. Each dungeon, as they unlock, will have between one and five quests available at any given time. Quests offers some gold, some heirlooms (used for upgrading the town), and - always - a trinket, with lower-level quests offering low-level items, and so on. Heroes can equip up to two trinkets before setting out for horrific adventure, and they nearly always have an upside and a downside - plus to dodge, but minus to accuracy, for example. Trinket quality is suggested in classic RPG form - they range from grey to green to blue to orange to red.
The red Ancestral trinkets are the most rare, the most elite - often only available from extra-long dungeon runs at the highest possible level - and last night, I sent a crew of my best into the Warrens (my favorite dungeon!) to obtain a doozy.
The Ancestor's Portrait. The only trinket in the entire game which, essentially, buffs the amount of experience a hero receives as they travel through a dungeon. There's nothing else like it.
I thought I had prepared them well. I thought I had sent enough food, but a pair of unlucky encounters with some cultists pretty much did me in. They hammered my Man-At-Arms with their explosively stressful incantations and drove him over the edge. The rest of the crew were deteriorating, and two of my four precious max-level heroes were down to slivers of lifebar.
In theory, I could have made it through the last three rooms and claimed the prize, but I wasn't prepared to risk the lives of a max-level healer and Hellion, so I waved the white flag. Brought them home. Wasted thousands of gold on provisions for that run, and came home with some supremely stressed-out heroes requiring several thousands more in treatment - but I had invested many thousands more in their development - I wasn't going to lose them chasing a dream.
Ever since, though, I've been watching the max-level quests. Waiting for that trinket to appear again.
The Cove. Why did it have to be in the Cove? I have no Grave Robber or (mentally prepared) Plague Doctor at rank six - I can't take advantage of these enemies' weaknesses... but what I can do is spend a king's goddamned ransom on this endeavour.
I can sell off the other Ancestral trinkets I have but never use, for $7,500 apiece, to bankroll it. But who to send..? A Vestal, obviously. But... I have no pure DPS classes who can go. No Highwayman to act as the backbone of my damage dealing. I won't be getting many stress-relieving crits...
So... Vestal in the back. Man-At-Arms in third. A Crusader as the second tank and... hey - hey you, Hellion. You're up. Front rank.
"Uh, Sir - and with respect - I'm not sure I'm best for front-ranking the Cove. The fish folk are like... really bleed-resistant."
"Well you're all I've fucking got, Willoughby, and you can reach the back row with Iron Swan to take out those weird fish-shamans so take this Stress Resist book and this Crit trinket and get the fuck out there."
"Sir, this is too much food."
"It's a long dungeon, you're taking the food."
"I don't think we need three stacks of torches. Don't we usually do zero light runs? Y'know... high risk, high reward?"
"Y'know who's not taking any chances? This guy. Here, take two stacks of bandages. The fish love to put bleeds on."
"We won't be able to carry much treasure home with all this..."
"Just bring me the fucking Portrait!"
Yeahhh. You are going on a Houndmaster.