Early Game Survival Strategies

If you find The Ground Gives Way very difficult (I certainly hope you do!), here are strategies for early game survival. These strategies include some that usually applies to roguelikes, but some of which are very specific to TGGW. With these hints you should be able to consistently get at least to the bottom of “underground”.

Since these hints are pretty basic they shouldn’t really be considered spoilers.

1. Don’t Fight Everything

Except for some enemy drops you don’t gain anything by killing monsters. Since there is no XP or character levels in TGGW, the only reason to kill a monster is to prevent it from killing you or because you want its drop (if it has one).

Another thing is that monsters may very well be more powerful than you, don’t expect the game to be “fair”. A very important skill in TGGW is to learn when to fight and when to avoid it.

Below are a few ways to avoid fights:

Close Doors

If you see a room with a monster, close the door and walk away if you can. Animals and most mindless creatures cannot open doors. You can see whether a monster can open a door by examining it in target mode.

Run Away

If you are faster than the monster (you can see this by examining the monster), you can simply walk away from it instead of fighting. If the monster is as fast or faster than you (which you will find is the case most of the time), you have to use another method.


A blinking ‘!’ means that you can hear a monster, and if you can hear it behind a door it usually means that it is big and strong (bigger monsters make more noise). Consider leaving the door for later unless you are strong and with high HP. Especially if you can hear more than one monster, or if you can hear it even when it is far from the door.

Run to the Stairs

Monsters cannot follow you up or down stairs, so a very useful way of escaping is to head for the stairs, rest and then return with full Hp… because in most cases the monster will be waiting for you right there when you come back.

Low Noise

The very best way of avoiding fights (but not always possible) is to keep a low ‘Noise’ attribute. With a sufficiently low ‘Noise’ you can often sneak past monsters, or entering a room without waking them up. There is no randomness in waking monsters up: They wake up when you get within ‘Noise’ squares of you, so you can fully predict it.


Some scrolls and some equipment lets you detect monsters, objects or stairs. This means that you can carefully plan how you move through the dungeon. If you detect objects, you can avoid areas without objects. If you detect monsters, you can avoid the most dangerous ones etc. This is even more useful at deeper levels.

Be Careful with Golden Doors

Opening a golden door is a huge risk because they are doors to treasure chambers which are usually guarded by extremely dangerous monsters. Unless you are unusually powerful and at full Hp, don’t open them (but you’ll miss out on some great stuff…).

Don’t Compulsively Clear Levels

Even though it may be tempting to explore every corner of a level, if an area has many or dangerous monsters, it’s simply not worth it. You can always return later when you’re more powerful.

2. Resting

A lot of strategy involves how and when you rest. Here are some strategies that may help you in the beginning:

Don’t be Conservative (and watch your HP!)

When you’re learning the game, make sure you rest often and don’t be too conservative with food. As a rule of thumb, don’t walk around with 5 Hp or lower until you are experienced with the game. Food is not that rare. Even fighting a level 1 monster such as a dog may very well kill you if your Hp is low. When you have a little bit more experience with the game, you can change this rule of thumb to 4 Hp. And with more experience yet, you can make the call depending on the situation.

3. Fighting

Very often fighting is still necessary, below are a few hints on what to think about when fighting:

Examine Every Monster

Before deciding whether you should fight a monster, target it with ‘x’ and press ‘x’ again to examine it. This will tell you almost everything there is to know about the monster: it’s attacks and what they do, their attributes and properties. Devise your strategy from this information.

Watch Your Attributes

In melee fights,what you need to watch is what a hit of the monster can do to you and whether the monster is “fast” or “very fast” (in which case it can sometimes attack multiple times before you, unless you are also fast or very fast).

Don’t Fight Several Monsters Simultaneously

Having more than one monster attacking you at the same time is usually fatal for several reasons. First of all, you will be attacked more often. But to make it worse there’s the “flanked” status and attacks of opportunities if you decide to retreat. If you see a lot of monsters in a room, try fighting them one by one in a corridor.

Finish Off Fleeing Monsters

When a monster flees, especially if it is a very dangerous one, it is a good idea to chase it down and finish it off (that is, if you have a weapon that deals non-lethal damage, if you don’t, it’s not very useful to chase it down). This is because all monsters will be back at full health and restored from any conditions after you rest. Alternatively chase it to a room you don’t need to visit again and close the door. Just mind that fleeing monsters will still occasionally attack you, so don’t chase them if your Hp is low or if they get close to other monsters.



  1. Hi, I like the game a lot. I just finished playing through the tutorial. It was interesting to play a game which implements many of the ideas which I’ve also been toying with for my own project. The eating to rest, no XP for monster kills, being able to sneak, fleeing monsters… these are all great game mechanics. It made me happy seeing them work well in someone else’s game, so I know I should be able to get them to work in mine too 🙂 (though some parts are different, like you eat food during rest mode to regain hp and focus rather than before resting).
    Anyway, congratulations of finishing the game, I’ll be sure to recommend it to others.

    1. Thank you very much Pickledtezcat, really glad you enjoy it! I checked out your blog. Your project seems very interesting too, more advanced than mine I believe. It will be interesting to see the result!

  2. Hi, just a note:

    I aggregate your blog on planet rldev. I will be removing it, as the posts are not related to development topics. If you wish it readded, please add a tag for development related posts and let me know via the email address I’ve given for this comment.

    Congrats on the game release.


    1. Hi Richard and thank you!
      I will return to development posts eventually. I’ll get back to you!

  3. Hey there.

    Any plans on making as OSX release? I tried running it in Wine but it didn’t work…

    Got to know about the project from the Roguelike Facebook group by the way.

  4. Hey Daniel!
    Yeah I heard it doesn’t work in Wine. Yes, there will be an attempt to port it to OSX for the next release. I really don’t know if its going to work out though, but look out for the next release!

    Thank you for letting me know about the Facebook group, I wasn’t aware of it!

  5. Scroll of Starvation is *really* mean. All of my good/promising characters have died to them, because I never find food after using one. I’ve stopped reading scrolls entirely because they aren’t useful enough given the potential drawbacks. I guess the only option there is wait until you’ve already reached 0 food, with extra in inventory, before trying to use any scrolls at all?

    1. Oh.. if it has made you stop reading scrolls altogether, yeah, then its probably too harsh. I will see what I will do with it, thanks!

      1. Perhaps halve your food instead? Or -1/-2? The scrolls I’ve seen haven’t seemed to have enough useful effects to make the negative ones worth it, really.

        On a related note, I found a grindstone for the first time today and my only weapon, a rusty short sword (pretty good as is), BROKE when I used it :/ And weapons can be so rare in many runs… I suppose knowing that means I would never risk using a grindstone again unless I have *extra* weapons, which is even more rare. Having no weapon by level 5 or so is certain death since you start encountering tougher enemies.

        Unlike scrolls, potions feel worth it, although I assume they’d be more useful in the late game once you have multiples because while unidentified they’re generally useless when you need them in a pinch. Not sure though, since I’ve never made it to the late game (or even know how long the game is!). I’ve probably played 100 runs by now and am pretty familiar with the content yet despite optimal play I only get to level 5/6 every 10-15 games or so and then die pretty quickly around there. Seems like the only way to win is to just get really damn lucky with the RNG!

        1. Yes, something like losing 1-2 food might be more reasonable.

          Grindstones break weapons pretty rarely (so again you were unlucky…), so if you really depend on a weapon and have no backups, then you should probably not take the risk. But when you’re a bit deeper you usually have collected a few weapons and might want to improve some.

          In this game you are unusually dependent on luck, that is true and intended. So there may be a relief in knowing that the game is only 15 levels. However, I pretty consistently get to at least level 10, so I wouldn’t say you’re completely at mercy of the RNG.

          At midgame (around lvl 6-10) the difficulty changes quite drastically and you have to change strategy. You didn’t ask for it, but here are some hints for getting through midgame (*slight spoilers*):

          At this depth you don’t want to explore more than necessary, so detect scrolls are very useful here. I suggest to try unidentified scrolls right after resting to optimise their effect. Scrolls don’t have temporary (lingering) negative effects, so doing this will not require that you re-rest. If you have any identified potions here, you can also use them (but as you guessed, they will most likely be used later on). Then really try to avoid fighting and resting (to keep the benefits of scrolls) as much as possible. Another thing is that you shouldn’t be too dependent on your melee weapon, some of the monsters here shouldn’t be fought melee unless you have exceptionally good attributes. At this depth you really should either have a way of taking monsters out at a distance or a way of avoiding them (like stealth, speed or teleportation). Of course you cannot control these parameters, I am just giving some pointers of what to think about.

          1. Interesting that you can consistently get to level 10, but I guess that’s because you know a bit more about how the game works internally. I can see why scrolls would eventually help, but after losing so many characters to Scrolls of Starvation by level 5 I really quit using them entirely.

            That and I don’t believe I’ve almost ever found a duplicate scroll before level 6–without duplicates they’re not all that useful since you haven’t identified them yet. Is that intended? Are you supposed to randomly get lucky with the type of scroll then try and stay alive in order to keep the temp effect? (the latter strategy I did make use of)

            I avoid all fights that I can’t win without taking too much damage, and explore as much as needed to find items (because they’re essential to survival) without getting into unnecessarily damaging fights.

            You say that by that depth you should have multiple options for taking out characters, but in the interest of seeing what the RNG has to offer, even exploring everywhere and finding everything in the first levels I rarely have more than one reliable way to fight, be it melee, ranged, or magic. A couple times I’ve had promising characters with two options by that time, but they died to those scrolls :/

            I’ll see what else I can improve in my strategy.

            1. Yes, I know the game pretty well 🙂

              (slight spoilers below in case someone else is reading..)

              When it comes to scrolls, yes, at that level you mostly have to read them unidentified and hope for the best and if lucky try to stay alive and use heals instead of resting. This can be very powerful if you combine several useful scrolls/potions.

              Otherwise it sounds like you are playing optimally, usually you can clear levels up to level 6-7 and by then have full inventory and most slots equipped. Like you said you usually have only one reliable way to fight, but the other non-reliable options will often turn out to be life savers in some situations.

              After that you really have to be very selective where you go, and if you can’t detect something useful or find relatively safe places, take the stairs when you find them.

              Other than that it is hard to give any specific advice. The more you learn the different monsters the easier it will get of course.

              One more thing that you probably have figured out is that it is often safer to go as hungry as possible (while still thinking about that food can go bad…) since there are many ways of losing food in the game.

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