⟵ Back 8 min · 2022-04-23

Thoughts on TGGW

Seeing that I've just won my first game of The Ground Gives Way (with savescumming on the way up to get out of some extremely difficult situations, so only a half-win...), I thought I'd write up a few things I learned the hard way, in case anyone could use the tips.

Conserve food early

That food you start out with? Conserve it as best you can. I've seen plenty of games where the first food items weren't found well into the Dungeon (past level 3, even); this food is critical to surviving. Don't rest until you have to.

Aggressively play pacifist

Of course, you'll be forced to rest if you insist on fighting every monster you come across. TGGW is not a DCSS-like roguelike with XP-levels, where you are encouraged to fight everything you come across (even going to the point of backtracking to levels to finish off monsters that were previously too hard); it's almost the opposite, discouraging you from fighting since you use up finite resources when you do (food, consumables).

Using doors wisely is crucial to good gameplay for this reason. If you jump into a room and see a bunch of monsters but no loot or doorways, it's always best to just close the door and leave them as is. If the monsters can use doors, grab a spare iron spike if you have one, and use it to jam the door. If you run into awake monsters in a room, close it. If you can hear them from outside the room, carefully wait outside to see if it opens the door; if not, carefully open it yourself (taking care to position yourself correctly, so that you can close it immediately if needed). Learning to use doorways to quarantine monsters is important to minimise the fights you'll be forced to get into.

Some monsters just aren't meant for fighting

Every now and then you'll run into a monster that is just ridiculously powerful, and is pointless fighting unless you have the right tools. Do your best to not wake it up, and if you do, run away.

A good example are iron turtles in the Laboratory: with 90% armor, most of the damage you throw at it will get swallowed, and it can rapidly give you lethal poisoning, despite being slow. Unless you have a strong ranged electrical or fire attack (the two damage types it's vulnerable to), it's downright fatal to fight it most of the time (unless you're immune to poison and have strong armor yourself). Lure it into a room without getting close, then turn around, run away, and lock the door behind it.

Reliable ranged attacks

Of course, every now and then you'll run into a deadly monster that you just have to fight. Rods, magic wands, and good ammunition (snowballs, bone arrows, etc) are all crucial to winning this fight (unless the monster also has deadly ranged attacks... good luck then).

Rods and ammo are particularly important, since they don't cost MP and are useful even on the most armor-heavy builds. If you don't have any rods or ammo, it's wise to buy at least one burst-targeted heavily damaging rod (e.g., firestorm). On my winning game, which had 70% armor at its peak (not to mention a nice quarterstaff with martial combo<2>), firestorm + bone arrows + hurl icicle (a wand) saved me on countless occasions. You're never too strong to not benefit from rods.

Wands are more tricky. Although highly useful (causing elemental damage with no chance of missing), many builds will take advantage of at least one item which reduces MP, reducing wand's usefulness. You'll have to decide for yourself whether the wands you have (and which wands you have: high-mp wands aren't useful unless you're specializing in magic) are worth the inventory space. On my last run, I had a 1-mp wand that did 2 damage (1 cold, 1 normal); it was useful enough that I splurged to buy Sorcery Training from an NPC to get my max MP up to 5.


Mutations, which replace one of your body part with something exotic (e.g, arms/fists with acidic tentacles), do have good upsides (e.g. the lightbulb head, which makes you immune to electricity), but are almost always downright horrible unless you don't have any equipment. Losing an enchanted silver staff on a martial build only to get acidic tentacles can be nasty for example. For that reason, it's important to treat all mutation-causing monsters (mutants are the only ones I know of) as an emergency. Also: don't quaff potions of mutation unless you want to play mutation roulette.


Pickpocketing is almost never worth the risks, IMO. Not only do you incur a heavy rep penalty (which costs 250 gold to restore), you'll also face more monsters who are hostile to you due to your negative reputation (e.g.: silver sprites); if your reputation gets low enough (I think -10 rep is the threshold), you'll even begin to see WANTED signs around with your name on it, lovingly signed by the Healer's Guild. Unless you have high thievery, are going up against someone with low vigilance, and absolutely need the money (for an urgent upgrade or just a really, really useful item), don't pickpocket. Even with relatively high thievery and low vigilance, the game will backstab you when least convenient for you.

Case study: I tried to pickpocket someone with ~35% vigilance (while having 45% thievery) and got caught red-handed. Naturally, I then tried to break into a donation box (come on, 45% thievery!) and of course I got caught, leaving me with -10 reputation.

Scrolls of starvation

It's not a priori apparent, but if you read scrolls of starvation (which give you +5 rep and -5 food) while hungry, you get the rep bonus without getting the food penalty (as that would require that your food be negative, which isn't possible). If you can spare the inventory space, I'd recommend carrying it around until it's convenient to use.

Scrolls of detect

Scrolls of detect treasure and detect items are extremely useful, allowing you to skip the bits of the level that aren't worth it and focus on grabbing the loot and getting out. I'd recommend reading it as soon as you enter D:3-D:4, as that's when enemies start getting really tough (in my experience). If you're lucky, you may even be able to use the scroll without consuming it ("You manage to keep the magic of the «scroll»"), allowing it to be used multiple times.

Scrolls of exits, which allow you to detect stairways and doors, are an order of magnitude more useful, allowing you to head straight for the exit while exploring a minimum of the level; these scrolls are exceedingly useful in the Laboratory (see below). Feel free to splurge on these scrolls when buying from NPC's, it can make the difference for many weaker builds.

Getting past the Laboratory

The Laboratory is the endgame, the final stage of your journey. Getting through this level requires a whole different mentality than the previous levels. You are trying to explore as little of the Laboratory as possible, heading for the stairs as soon as possible, without stopping to search for loot unless you're unusually strong.

For this reason, a scroll of exits is extremely useful; buy at least one if you don't have it, and if you're forced to rest and have used up the scroll, try to buy another if it's available.

Get as many defensive bufs possible as well. Chant «protect», quaff battle potions, and pile on the resists: you'll need them for the many monsters that do heavy elemental damage here. Keep in mind that Laboratory is downright fatal without a source of resistances.

Of course, you'll want to rest as infrequently as possible here (to keep the benefits of your bufs as long as possible), so potions/rods of restoring and all healing items (healing kits, ales, wines, healing potions, leaf aloes) are highly useful.

Ways the game will screw you

There are hundreds of ways. The most annoying one, though, is that little message you may get after resting:

 You wake up. You feel a chilling cold,
 as if the dead were walking...

If you get this message, get off the level ASAP. The floor will be filled with all manner of dangerous undead; if you're unlucky you'll have a lot of ranged attackers piled into a single room, which can lead to a lot of fun if it's in your path to the stairs. On my winning run, I got this message on Laboratory:4, just as I was leaving the floor. On my way up I realized that no less than 4 skeletal archers (very dangerous ranged attackers) were in packed into a single room (with a skeletal warrior (which hits for 3 damage!!) and a lead turtle, for good measure), blocking my path to the staircase. (Not to mention that my Vision was just 3, so they all were getting nasty surprise attacks on me with their bone arrows).

Kiëd Llaentenn © 2019-2022 — CC BY-NC-ND 4.0