A downloadable game

Buy Now$5.00 USD or more

The Ground Itself is a one-session storytelling game for 2-5 players, played with household materials (a coin, a six-sided die, and a deck of cards).

Focusing on place- one specific place, chosen by the group - The Ground Itself unfolds over radically disparate time periods that may range from 4 days to 18,000 years. By casting wildly into time, it considers how places both change and remember themselves. Fundamentally, The Ground Itself is about the echoes and traces we leave for others after we are gone.

There are a few download options. They all contain the same content, but: 

The_Ground_Itself_single_pages.pdf is single, printable pages.

The_Ground_Itself_double_pages.pdf is laid out in double spreads.

The_Ground_Itself_plaintext.pdf is a text-only version of the game, for screenreaders or custom fonts.

The_Ground_Itself_Italiano.pdf is translated to Italian by Anna De Lucia.

The_Ground_Itself_Française.pdf is translated to French by Martin Mestres.

The_Ground_Itself_Português.pdf is translated to Portuguese by Vinicius Baptista Jesus de Souza.

The_Ground_Itself_Español.pdf is translated to Spanish by Enrique Franco.

The_Ground_Itself_German.pdf is translated to German by Samira Herber.

(Those with financial hardship may always contact me for a free copy of the PDF, no questions asked.)

CategoryPhysical game
Rated 4.9 out of 5 stars
(173 total ratings)
AuthorEverest Pipkin
GenreCard Game
TagsAltgame, Atmospheric, GM-Less, Minimalist, Narrative, One-shot, Story Rich, Tabletop, worldbuilding
Average sessionA few hours
LanguagesEnglish, Portuguese (Brazil)


Buy Now$5.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $5 USD. You will get access to the following files:

The_Ground_Itself_double_pages.pdf 11 MB
The_Ground_Itself_single_pages.pdf 11 MB
The_Ground_Itself_plaintext.txt 27 kB
The_Ground_Itself_Português.pdf 21 MB
The_Ground_Itself_Italiano.pdf 4 MB
The_Ground_Itself_Française.pdf 27 MB
The_Ground_Itself_Español.txt 29 kB
The_Ground_Itself_German.pdf 14 MB

Physical Book

Support this game at or above a special price point to receive something exclusive.

The Ground Itself - Physical Book, U.S. shipping

A copy of The Ground Itself, shipped to you in the United States.

Be sure to provide your address! It is after checkout and easy to miss.

The Ground Itself - Physical Book, international shipping

A copy of The Ground Itself, shipped to you anywhere else in the world.

Be sure to provide your address! It is after checkout and easy to miss.


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Hello, I ordered a physical book with international shipping but there was no way of entering my address in the checkout process (only a billing address, not a delivery address) - is there a way I can retrospectively add my address to the order? Thank you :) 

Hello! I bought this (physical copy, US Shipping) as a Xmas gift but haven’t filled in the recipient information. I’d like to delay sending the emailed version until closer to Xmas—should I just put my own email address as the recipient and then forward that email when I want my friend to receive it?

Ooh, I actually don't know how itch handles gift distribution internally- I suspect you can add your friend's email closer to Christmas and it'll go out then, but if not you can reenter the email on this page to have them resend the download link; https://itch.io/docs/buying/already-bought

If anything goes wrong, I can always send you a new download key!

Hi! Do you plan to offer community copies of this game? Thanks!

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Those with financial hardship can always email me for a free copy of the PDF!

any chance of more physical copies? seems the link on your site leads to an error page on itch.

I am traveling until August and can't ship orders, but they'll be available again then!

stellar - safe travels!

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I heard of this game through Friends at the Table podcast, and was so intrigued. I just played my first session with two of my friends, and though we did not finish it, we had so much fun creating our unique world and the stories that inhabited it. The prompts were creative and thought provoking. Thank you for the marvellous experience!


just played this game for the first time and it was fantastic. There isn’t a lot I can say that hasn’t been said, but I can say this: The Ground Itself is perfect for anyone who really liked the premise of Microscope, but found it to be too open ended without any prompts or randomizers to get the ideas flowing. It’s also probably perfect for anyone who didn’t feel that way, honestly.

Our game started as a silly story about a grocery store in a town with ghosts, where food that goes bad turns into ghost food. We very quickly went down a rabbit hole of turning that silly grocery store into a pretty heartbreaking tale about the fear of death.


The Ground Itself is very easy to pick up and play, but its simplicity belies its power and versatility as a storytelling engine. All of its parts are finely-tuned to interact with one another to guide your table somewhere wondrous, dreadful, poignant, or surprising. If the premise appeals to you at all, I cannot recommend it enough.


Hi,I just finished a French traduction of the game. Would you agree to talk about a bit about it? I sent you an email but i'm not sure it reached it's destination :)

All the best from France


The places around us hold stories that are bigger than any one of us. The Ground Itself a grand, elegant way to tell those stories. A beautiful, artful game, enclosed in lovely presentation and thoughtful prose.


If you don’t have a deck of cards available, or if you want to play over the internet with friends, I made a playingcards.io template. It provides a virtual, free to use, synchronized playspace specially organized for The Ground Itself.



You're a hero.


The Ground Itself feels more like a journey than a game.  This is not just a list of world-building prompts, despite appearing to be exactly that. Rather, it's a breath of life into even the simplest of ideas.  You begin with absolutely nothing, and with just a few cards drawn you begin to discover something beautiful, horrible, fantastic, and terrifying.  Every single question is left open enough to take it in whatever direction your Place tells you to, while also touching on such unique aspects that it feels creative and real.  

The Ground Itself does not have you create a world, but rather takes your hand and guides you through the raw and ever-changing soul of place.  It points out to you the beautiful decorations.  It introduces you to the struggle and strife.  It leads you to every nook and cranny you didn't know existed, while never letting you forget about the grand picture. 

It never feels like a setting with a list of questions and answers.  The prompts emerge only when you draw a card and then disappear once their job is complete.  Each one not only adds to the place, but intertwines with what already is established.  No two journeys are the same, and when all is said and done you can't help but get the feeling that your new Place came to you rather than you to it.  

I recommend this as THE essential world-building game.  You will fall in love with every place you discover with it. 


I just played this with my MIL across Portuguese and English (the translations were brilliant btw) - we constructed a port city founded by shipwreck survivors on the coast of a bountiful land dominated by giant trees and surrounded by huge hills. Over the course of a century and a bit, the city became a city-state which overcame class struggle by removing the bourgeoisie and installing a structure of cultural revolution and care. It became a hub for artisans of all kinds, a place of stories and myths, and went through cultural renaissance after renaissance. There were celebrations, stories, and an auspicious omen in the skies which turned the attention of the populace from the land beneath their feet to the heavens above and left an air of uneasy but exciting change in the people of the city. Never have I felt so nostalgic for a place I've never been. 10/10 game, I even managed to get my parents interested and they almost never play tabletop games. Will be recommending far and wide.


Hey man, this is a really fun game! I played it over discord with some friends and an online deck of cards, it lasted around 3 hours and was absolutely bizarre. We talked about a cold city with a really high building built in between a zoo and a jail, where all the people had dwarfism and were made of cake... And the city was built on top of a sleeping giant. Very unique, I'd say!

I love how itch.io can be home to such a diverse variety of games. Thank you for an amazing experience!

What discord bot did you use for the deck of cards? I have one on my server but I don’t think it can split the deck like this game requires. 

I just used a website and shared the screen. It was quite troublesome tbh. If I were to play again I'd probably just film myself with the deck, much easier!


This was awesome! We got it in the racial justice bundle and it's probably my favorite find out of the whole thing so far. (And there's been a lot of title to love.) Everest should be very proud of their work; thank you so much for helping me create some wonderful evenings (and places!) with friends <3


Ahhhh! I loved playing this game. The time mechanic is very cool, and I loved being restricted to a specific space of view. I loved moving from the concerns of the local mice to the concerns of the people who came to picnic in our clearing. Knowing we were playing on a millennia scale let us see 100 years of time as "now" for the first section. Our 10s were all in the later half of the deck, which meant each round got shorter and shorter until we came to the two 10s at the bottom of the deck. If you had told me that beforehand, I might have thought it would be annoying, but it was not. It worked perfectly. 

The prompts are good, and the alternatives to the prompts provide a lot of freedom and the ability to adapt play to the style of the group.

This feels like it has great replay value, and I look forward to playing it again. And again.


A few nights ago I played The Ground Itself with some new friends, and we had a great time telling the story of a rainy and strange national park. The setup took longer than expected, perhaps because we were still warming up to each other and learning the game. The pace picked up as we kept moving, and the game took about 5 hours. Overall, a great way to spend the night! 

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The Ground Itself launched the inaugural session of a series where we plan to play as many tabletop games from the Racial Justice bundle as we can. All of us were impressed by the clarity of purpose and versatility of the prompts. We ended up discussing the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, with a timeframe measured in days. We found that taking poetic license on many of the prompts was natural and flowed well. I will be editing our audio and posting it eventually. When I do, I'll edit this comment with a link.


That would be awesome to see! I would love to hear because I am going to try and use this as a creativity prompt to create a new fantasy map/world and would love to see how it can be use


Just played this with some friends, and we had a blast filling out the story of a city in our campaign that I hadn't come up with yet. It flowed pretty smoothly and the prompts were creative, we definitely got carried away answering some of the questions though. Well done!


I've now played through this game twice (with different people) and I really enjoyed it both times. Really great prompts for creative exploration. A nice workout for the imagination.

Itch review text sorta just vanishes into the void, and I just learned that, so I'm copying it here as a comment.


This is lovely. It leans hard into the zine feel with its layout, but the charcoal art is just as lush in the book as it looks on the profile, and the language is grounded and tactile.

Gameplay-wise, Ground Itself quick and easy to set up. It takes a bit of an odd angle (you're observing a place, rather than characters,) but that gives it a lot of charm, and it mixes collaborative choices ('where is our game set?') with mechanical disruptions ('a d6 tells us whether we come back to the place in a day, or 1,000 years into the future,') which might not be to everyone's taste, but that I liked.

As of 6.19.20, I was able to find a typo on page 9 ("each player is dealt cards the from the"), but that was the only one I spotted.

I also wasn't 100% certain of the intended flow of gameplay as I was reading through the first half of the book, but there's a summary of gameplay on page 13 that helps significantly to clarify things, and I kind of wish it was used earlier.

Overall, this is a neat storytelling game with stunningly beautiful artwork, a novel premise, and a lot of cool ideas. I think I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to spend a few hours telling a chill story with friends.

Wow, what an incredible game! A perfect introductory game to those new to worldbuilding games. The game is easy to learn and teach on the spot and the choices are simple but extremely clever and unique, helping you cultivate an idea into a fleshed out story in no time. Definitely worth trying at least once.


I played this with three friends over about two hours, it's a really great game and worth far more than the $3 lowest price. The tables included give a broad enough scope for creativity with your ideas for your world, but are discrete enough from each other to feel worthwhile. The artwork is really pretty! If you're even considering this I'd strongly recommend giving it a go.


Greatly admire you getting the game to people who can't afford it, and offering it in social justice bundle! this looks fantastic and Im greatly looking forward to playing with some friends!


Thank you for the note about financial hardships. It warms my heart that there are creators like you out there. I'm looking forward to trying to play!


MAn! Do you have it in spanish!?!! i am interesed!


Unfortunately I don't, although I wish I did- maybe I'll be able to get it translated someday.


If there is no French version available I would be interested in helping to put one together.


I would be honored! Email me? everest . pipkin @ gmail


Haven't tried yet, but I wanted to mention how fast my eyes zoomed over to this! It looks amazing!


This is clearly inspired by The Quiet Year. I like playing that with friends once in a while, so I'll definitely have a look at how this one is~!


I have no money to buy this gem of a game I already know I'd like it may I receive a free copy? Thank you

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Email me! everest . pipkin at gmail


I've played this game once and it was absolutely magical, I'm planning on making myself a little rules cheatsheet small enough that I can slip it into my pack of cards and keep it all on hand just in case I'm caught out for a few hours with some friends.

10/10, worth way more than $3