Being a great DM means understanding what your players want you to do to them, and not do to them, and then using that to craft a perfectly satisfying adventure just to their taste. (This is exactly what safety tools help you achieve.) And Matt Mercer is a VERY good DM.
He knows Liam wants to be hurt in a way that proves hurt people are still worthwhile and even if you're very sad life has really meaning and purpose.
Taliesin also loves being hurt, but more than that he loves being surprised and being a deeply woven in part of the world so he loves to provide just a few details so Matt can fill in the rest as a gift.
Marisha loves stories about proving your worth, exceeding heavy expectations, and confronting systems that tried to make you who you're not and changing that system instead.
Ashley loves stories about finding faith and inner strength. Her D&D story has been about having to be apart from her found family, and Matt took that and made it a narrative element to explore in a way that have all her family repeated chances to say "We love you and miss you."
Sam loves to start his characters with a joke and have Matt throw unexpected circumstances and drama at him until he has to admit that he's actually sincere and thoughtful underneath.
Travis loves to explore inner strength and being the one people rely on when sometimes you don't feel strong and have your own doubts and insecurities. Also cursed weapons. Travis adores cursed and talking weapons.
And Laura loves stories about teaching deeply wounded & messy people that they are worthwhile & in so doing to recognize that worth in yourself. Matt has never hurt Laura with her backstory at all, & more than she set it down. He weaves it in, but the story only gets better.
If Laura wants sunshine and dick jokes and wild imagination and a refusal to give into darkness, then by good that's what Matt will give her. A good DM only hurts their friends with consent and teaches them the lessons they asked to learn.
If Liam or Taliesin or Travis was playing Jester, then yeah, Artagan might turn out to be a bad guy because they would eat that shit up. But she's Laura's fantasy & Matt's writing this story to her as his gift of love and friendship, & I don't think Ladies wants pain this way.
None of this shit comes out of nowhere. Matt isn't giving a sermon on the mount, he's setting up his friends wildest fantasies as a gift so they can play out their dreams together. The viewers are the secondary audience to the players. It's their personal story for them.
They're conscious of us, and try to be mindful of us and adjust, is being there has enabled their own wildest dreams, but at the end of the day, this art is for them. What they wanted to do and say to the world. And Laura clearly wants to say, "Hope and kindness always win."
As evidence of this claim I summit to you the present circumstances of Percival de Rolo and Trinket, Marion Lavore, Sprinkle's plot armor (however much they tease), and The Cupcake Maneuver.
"Matt intends to hurt Laura to teach her a lesson about having hope" sounds exactly as ridiculous as "the Wachowskis sisters never intended The Matrix to be a trans allegory." You can't actually separate the intentions of the artist from the art.
Gonna add into this more generally for D&D education: if your player wants a cool narrative where their character has a combat wheelchair and they want to explore what that's like, and you take every opportunity to deny them that story for "challenge," you're a bad DM.
Similarly, if a player character gets a pet who brings them joy and they would be very sad and blame themselves for getting it killed and have a bad time, you give that pet as much plot armor and magical aids as you need to keep it alive. Matt does that too. Dead pets aren't fun.
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