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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.