Okay, time to pick this up again. My kingdom is doing well, having collected the complete pantheon of gods, upgraded the bank and bazaar to level 3, snagged all of the random subdungeon assets, and opened up all of the non-vicious dungeons.
My plan from here revolves around the mechanics of the impending market crash. Horatio's depredations are triggered every time you collect a new type of trophy. At first, the market hit is so tiny that you won't even notice it unless you've been taking notes, but it eventually becomes catastrophic. I intend to carefully avoid collecting new trophies until I have finally purchased all of the upgrades. Once that's done, I'll make a blitzkrieg raid on dungeons that I know are guaranteed to contain the missing trophies and try to finish the collection in as few moves as possible. This minimizes the time between the market crash and the final confrontation with Horatio.
Normally, I'd also finish the Complicated Tasks strand so that I could get the all powerful Witch's Hut-3, but the last 2 quests are particularly difficult and require preps to complete within a reasonable amount of time. The problem isn't so much the cost of the preps (which I am willing to pay) but the fact is that my stupid locker is bugged and deletes items instead of storing them :/
You might have noticed that I haven't said anything about the Vicious dungeons. That's because I'm completely ignoring them. Vicious dungeons are optional end game challenges intended for people who have grown bored with the regular fare. Consistent victory in Vicious requires heavy and expensive preparation, and the rewards for completing them don't justify the cost. I'll consider them when Horatio is out of the picture.
I figure the best way to get gold is to start knocking off the Den of Danger quests. I also discover that you get an 800 gold bounty for finishing a dungeon with half of the classes, which was a nice and unexpected bonus. In the end, I get the Crystal Ball (can't locker it so it isn't very useful) and enough cash to buy two level 3 upgrades. I choose the Adventurer's Guild, thinking that upgrading it might fix my locker (it doesn't) and the Church, looking to unlock the Dragonscale trophy (a maneuver that was immediately obsoleted by the new Cursed Oasis dungeon).
I also did a random Monk run against Venture Cave, which I documented in the playthrough thread, as well as a reckless Rogue run against the Berserker Camp. This was a dangerous thing to do, because it added the Bandit Scalp to my collection and ran the risk of crashing the market, but I was wanting to scout out the camp and see how reasonable it would be to attempt an unprepped Warmonger Sorcerer raid. I decided that it wouldn't be very reasonable at all and abandoned the idea. (If you are confused, Complicated Tasks 5 requires you to achieve Warmonger with a Sorcerer against the Berserker Camp. Doing this nets you the Schadenfraude potion, which is a terrific power boost and greatly enhances the utility of your apothecary shops, but it's hard to pull off without a functioning locker).
I'm now sitting at 1600 gold and need 2400 more to upgrade my guilds. The game progression gets a bit wonky here. What I'd like to do is knock off all of the basic starter quests, but I can't unlock those without first unlocking almost everything else in the game. So I can't finish the Den of Danger questline, which means that I can't even start the Venture Cave quests. So what I'll do instead is start picking off the annoying Warmonger badge in as many dungeons as possible. The Warmonger badge is only moderately hard when you get to select your class (ie you take a Berserker), but can be almost impossible when selected by the PQI (ie Warmonger gnomish Bloodmages). Because I'm trying to earn gold here, I'll either be going Purist or taking only the Slayer Wand in with me.
I start out trying the Hexx Ruins, an exercise in optimism that I won't be repeating anytime soon. It starts out good, with a JJ altar right next to me, but it's nowhere near enough. I don't find ANY magic using monsters, which is bad for Berserkers. I also realize that I'll pretty much have to have a Venom Ward to pull this off, which would either require some serious scumming or a functioning locker. I do my best, but I eventually get cornered by Revenants and have to retreat.
Next up, I try the Eastern Tundra. It goes a little bit better, but the lack of glyph use hurts. This is where I am after exploring the whole map. There is WAY too much xp tied up in high level monsters that I can no longer afford to fight. My only saving graces are the subdungeon (which is the powerup-behind-a-warlock variety and contains a nice chunk of exploration) and the altar to Tikki Tooki, which I was ignoring until now.
I join TT and then smack Blah Blah once. This was a mistake. I should have done that the other way around, so that the first hit wouldn't wouldn't count towards Tikki's "you're taking too much damage" complaints.
Then I take Tikki's Edge, which just barely lets me squeeze two level ups out of the remaining popcorn. I use the subdungeon to regen-fight Blah Blah, which knocks off about 100 hp from him but annoys the holy hell out of TT. I end up buying the Reflex boon twice and then spend all of my remaining gold on Tribute to make him tolerate my slugfest with the vampire lord.
Finally got you, you bloodsucker.
Lots of new badges, including the pesky Warmonger. While it might look like I stomped the dungeon from the victory screen, the truth is that it was pretty close. Warmonger is a HARD badge, even for the Berserker, and you normally would want to prep Taurog, along with a nice locker item.
Next, I send my Warmonger Berserker south to the swamp. There were some close moments,, but in the end I was able to overwhelm the boss with health potions. The Slayer Wand proved its worth, letting me snag 9 xp from a meatman that would have otherwise been impossible to get.
From here, I think I'll lay off of the Warmonger thing for a while. The Northern Desert is occupied by either the Tormented One or the Tower of Goo, either of which are bad for Warmongers. I could prep the Really Big Sword, but that would require a blacksmith-3, a very expensive upgrade. The rest of the available targets are Hard dungeons, which I don't want to try Warmonger raids on until I have cash for preps and my locker starts working. I have 2300 gold, 2000 of which I spend to complete the Mage's Guild
The economic progression is still a bit off. I'm doing okay, but I'm also proficient enough to beat all of the hard dungeons as a purist. Even then, I'm finding myself getting boxed in and having to do non-quest related busywork to unlock basic content. The problem right now is that lateral progress (e.g. unlocking new classes and dungeons) is expensive, whereas vertical progress (e.g. gaining preps and basic infrastructure) is cheap. I think that it should be the other way around. Some of the basic starter quests (Unlikely Heroes and friends) are behind such a huge wall that the game is basically over before you are even told that they exist.
I also think that some of the preps are on the wrong tier. The glyph magnet preps grant consistency rather than power, and should really be second tier instead of third.