Who said it was any different? The setting has had the characters as underdogs since the reboot. While they technically chose to serve Grasping Hands, it would have cost the party some 2000 gold pieces and their future armor if they would have chosen not to. And considering Adam chose to have a overlord for them in the Monastery, they might have been faced with another one no matter where they went.
Those are good points, especially about the foreshadowing the early campaign gave us. Thank you for the confirmation regarding the product by design, I had been curious about that.
Would it be safe then, to assume the majority of npc's that react in the ways I'd mentioned have either experienced more intimidating things than the pc's or otherwise have had prior experiences to dull the nerves? I suppose it would fit with the setting in how deadly the world is, hardening many that the pc's run into. If this is the case, then I would have to say I had been looking at this all wrong in assuming the meek would be the majority of the populace in the setting. This is cool, don't get me wrong, I very likely have just been confused about it. This information has helped alleviate that.
To summarize, you'd say that they're recent experiences would make it so the characters are shaken enough to at times, overshadow their aggression, that in a different setting would be apparent? Maybe I hadn't seen the wary side to the behavior because I wasn't focusing on that.
They don't have to swallow their pride to survive.
They have chosen to swallow their pride. Possibly to make things easier. But they could have chosen not to. Making those choices is the meaningful bit they tells us what the characters are about and what their place in the world is.
Adam has put them in situations which test what the characters are about. It lets the players assert or find out what their characters are.
The whole premise of the game has been tied to authority and dealing with it. Initially the PC's started out with a sort of Dogs in the Vineyard style authority over most folk. They had status & responsibility and they would be listened to & obeyed, they were important.
When they rebooted they flipped it around and made the characters slaves/prisoners under the authority they had once been part of. They had no status, they had to obey someone else and their lives were worth very little. As PC's they are on a timer as their slave masters ability to control them diminishes as they get stronger.
It's still dnd, it may not be long before everyone and their mother is running to hills to escape the PC god monster hobos who solve everything with murder because it's easy and barely anything in the world can go toe-to-toe with them in a fight.
The directly oppose Kukrit, they die. They directly oppose Grasping Hands, they die. They constantly face provocation from NPCs they could not survive taking head-on.
No PC can ever overpower the DM.
No they have a fight, they aren't guaranteed to die.
Adam is never going to say, "Ok well you're dead lol." from simply opposing an npc.
Even then CoS is defined by the rules so it follows CR. So, he'd set up said NPC as a Deadly encounter and go from there.
Had they tried to take on Kukrit head-on, he would have fried them through the bracers. Had they tried to take on Grasping Hands head-on, they would have faced a fight far beyond deadly.
Adam will only set up encounters as deadly if he feel that it fits the setting. If the PCs chose to go against good judgement and pick a fight they are aware they won't win, Adam will not hold back. The world needs to have fights that the party cannot take head-on.
This is such a fascinating thread for me. Thank you OP. Like, it's nice seeing folks notice the threads that are developing. The themes of Court of Swords are authority and destiny and this last episode was so so interesting - when the PCs were finally "free" they became aimless and when they came under pressure from someone looking to use them, they fell in line. I can't wait to see what happens next. I think Azriel has some tricks up his sleeve...
Initially they had to follow Kukrit but they passed that point, a bracelet that deals a few d8 becomes less of an issue as time passes. They could absolutely fight grasping hands if they wanted. The bad consequences for fighting against grasping hands aren't necessarily player death but the fallout from the action like not getting their armor.
Kukrit was always supposed to have a knife to their throat for a while, and everyone bought into that idea. Adam is not making them act and threatening them with death if they don't do what he wants. He is giving them choices and carrying forward consequences from decisions. I am aware there was this one time an npc literally held a knife to a PC's throat and threatened to kill him but it doesn't actually undermine my point
There is no DM overpowering the players either.
The few D8s were warning jolts. They were absolutely supposed to get out from under Kukrits thumb, but not through a straight fight. They absolutely could not take on Grasping Hands and his underlings in a straight fight. They could take him out by subterfuge, either by trying to dismantle his organisation or by isolating him from his underlings.
The DM can always chose to overpower the players if he wants to. Rocks fall, everyone dies.
Kukrit had power over them and this was something everyone was okay with and had talked about and everyone was playing around this idea of being under his power. They weren't necessarily "supposed" to get out from his thumb but it quickly became clear it was something the characters wanted and they began to explore that through play.
Grasping hands was something in the world that they encountered. If they fight him and his minions they should expect combat encounters to be in line with an appropriate level of challenge. They should expect this because that's how dnd works, the players are supposed to be able to win fights in the end if they play smart.
What is you point when you say the GM (or the players) can always choose to be a dick an ruin the game?
Rocks fall everyone dies is straight up GM bullshit. As is letting the players play out a fight they absolutely mechanically cannot win without clearly telling the players that they will die if they try to fight because they aren't supposed to.
If the DM put's unwinnable combats in the game and doesnt make the unwinnable bit explicit its a massive slap in the face to everyone playing.
The raging rhino can never be the sly snake, to try to deny your intrinsic nature will cause a war within yourself. It is better to revel and die as who you are then live and despair as who you are not.
Just because the players encounter something in the world doesn't mean that they can expect to beat it in a straight fight. Adam has given the PCs more than enough indication that a straight fight against Grasping Hands will end poorly for them. A world cannot be immersive if it has to allow for the PCs to solve every obstacle with a head on fight. Where you got the idea that there's is something inherent to DnD saying that PCs should expect every fight they pick to be winnable is beyond me.
You said that the GM cannot overpower the players. Before that you said that the players can get too strong to be challenged in the world. Neither can be further from the truth, seeing as the GM holds ultimate power.
I wonder where you got the idea from that a GM should explicitly say that picking a certain fight is unwinnable. The players are expected to exercise common sense.
click the link at the bottom of my post for a detailed exploration about why giving players dnd fights they cant win is bullshit
Then the link in at the bottom of your post isn't worth its weight in bytes. Forcing players into fights they cannot win is different than fights existing in the world that the players cannot win if they chose to pick them.
We don't know the damage capabilities of the bracers, and we don't know the combat prowess of Grasping Hands.
They've been hinted at, but not shown yet. Yes we saw the bracer go off, but we haven't seen just what it can do yet.
The worst we've seen the bracer do is cause a PC to feel a pain akin to being submerged into icy water that caused the PC to stagger, causing 3D6 damage. What we can assume from Grasping Hands and his gang is that one lieutenant is at minimum a 5th level Monk.
Why are we assuming this? (not up to snuff on 5E mechanics so legitimately asking)
npc's do not have levels the same way as players do, npcs are statblocks
For example a 5 lvl warlock pc would be different to an npc warlock with 3rd level spellcasting. A 5th-ish level monk would be around CR3 i think though an npc would have more health maybe an extra attack and different and likely less features skills and saves.
azure vortex is an example of a monk that was not a monk
I may be misremembering, but I think the Golden Princess or whatever rolled 1D6 for damage on her unarmed strike, which should as far as I know mean that she is at least a 5th level monk.
Adam has stated that he will use character creation for creating high level NPCs of a given class. Whether Golden Princess is such a character or not is unknown as of yet.