|GM / DM||Telgin|
|System||DF Community Fortress (Freeform)|
|Former Players||Psalms, Khenal|
|Current Party||Falcata, Flux, Stiletto|
Dawnpick was a happy accident of timing, concept and tone that led to it becoming a very successful Dwarf Fortress community fort. Subsequent attempts, such as Duskfields and Shadytrails have been less successful, leading to great philosophers to question what Dawnpick did so much better than them.
Behind the Scenes
Because of his inexperience with modding and DF in general, the GM Telgin made a number of mistakes when setting up the game that he could not "correct" until its sequels. Specifically, the mod used for the game included a great deal of material not canon to the MLP:FiM universe that he was not fond of, but did not remove or alter before starting the game. Telgin later regretted that this material as a result became canonical to the setting. Diomedian ponies and cave ponies in particular were not intended to be part of the game, and griffons were supposed to be added but were left out. Oddities in pony size and lifespan were not corrected either, leading to ponies with greatly extended lifespans of hundreds of years and sizes resembling those of real horses.
Some unused story ideas for Dawnpick were later taken and applied to Duskfields. Specifically, a vague idea that Telgin had considered using for an overarching story was for a draconequus to be a designated villain and who would be struck down by the townsfolk. This idea was scrapped for various reasons, but mostly because he did not add them to the mod and did not want to institute purely out of game story components to include such a villain.
The first graph shows how many unique people posted on a given day, as well as the running average. The second graph shows the number of words posted in a given day, as well as the running average. Neither graph tries to account for the content of the post. That is, people posting things out of character, "PTW" and so on still count, but those were rare enough that they do not substantially affect the analysis.
Note: The words per day numbers are lower than they should be because Omicega came back years later to delete all of the content of his posts, for reasons unknown.
Dawnpick started off somewhat slow, likely due to its future players still being heavily involved in Glitterglen. However, Glitterglen was beginning to wind down by this point, leading to a gradual migration of players to Dawnpick due to its similar format and subject matter. Although it's pure speculation, the lighter tone and greater openness of concept probably attracted more players and led to more diverse stories.
The game continued to gain speed until somewhere about 6-7 months in, at which point it began a slow descent into apathy and decline caused by burnout among the players and a lack of things to do. It ended rather abruptly at that point, but as the graph shows, there were still a few heavy scenes posted after that point, largely as ending scenes. Maklak posted a large dump a while after that, which resulted in the peak at the very end of the graph.
When things were in harmony, Dawnpick was thriving and a lot of fun for most players involved. Its comparatively light hearted nature combined with a healthy balance of DF violence and slice of life led to the formation of many charming and overlapping character arcs. Players were happy to exploit (and abuse) the loose rules to take off with character development.
Although it rarely manifested in the public thread, the large community and severe lack of control and moderation by the GM Telgin led to conflicting groups forming and player infighting. Some highly toxic players were allowed to stay in the game for far longer than they should have, and the GM permitted an entire group of players opposed their existence to form and scheme behind their backs. The results were somehow less like a nuclear explosion than one might anticipate, but still serve as a cautionary tale. The hostility likely led to a number of players not returning for its sequels.
The game also suffered from a lack of planning. While this might have been an advantage during its early and mid stages by allowing players to do what they wanted, it led to a very unsatisfying "The End!" ending because nothing else was planned or could be shoehorned in with the last gasps of players left by that point.
The Moral of the Story
Dawnpick could be seen as a cautionary tale regarding moderation and planning. While a lack of both can cause something to thrive, the results can end up not unlike cancer. The game grows and mutates out of control and before anyone knows it, there's no saving it.
The solution is to institute at least some idea of how it should end from the beginning, and to do a better job of controlling brewing player anger, resentments and fighting. Toxic players should be expunged with the same level of urgency that antibiotics are prescribed for infections, as opposed to covering your eyes and hoping the problem goes away, as Telgin did.