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Is Dragon Ball Z suitable for a tabletop game?

Remember Uub (Is that spelled right?) At the end of DBZ? He was a human but Goku was having a hard time beating him, so after the fight became his tutor. Not sure if this even happened in the manga, but it does suggest that humans are capable of becoming as strong as a Super Saiyan. Even if just rare to start. Plus, I don't remember much about GT, but my brother watched it, and I did see the last episode where Goku and Vegeta's great great grandkids could go super. Not cannon, but maybe mixing Saiyan blood with human blood doesn't diminish it too much.

So you could start it in the far future (like 200-300 years) and have large numbers of powerful humans, some capable of going Super Saiyan, and perhaps there's still some powerful Namekians running around.

Having somewhat successfully run a game on the weave of DBZ it was incredibly mindnumbingly difficult with mechanic heavy systems that were highly specific.

If you made a misstep in an NPC's calculations you could turn what was originally supposed to be an incredible threat to a minor encounter. For instance when my player mooked Subzero, they were of virtually identical power and build. Yet because of the lack of balance inherent to such a rigorously defined system he was virtually immune to the enemies attacks and was in the end hardly challenged. Also, it takes hours of work to make an M&M or BESM character. Hours I could spend writing a story spent making a single piece of the story.

Now, if you used a system of abstraction that used dice as a story telling mechanic you'd have something. If it's simple enough it's really easy to have a massive battle royale like you'd see in DBZ reduced to two singular fighters locked in mortal combat. A tristat d6 system would work best with some kind of fate or badass mechanic that allowed you to change the narrative. The game is about managing your hit points and fate points, while plotting ways to get the advantage on your opponent through skill rolls and creative use of Ki power.

Something like a Warrior stat to determine fighting ability and hit points, rogue stat to determine defenses and general canny and cunning, and a mage score to determine the power of your ki and ki blasts or healing factor or what have you. If you kept it really simple and easily, predictably scaling it would work really well. Then create a system of minor talents or knacks that make the character unique in their own way.

While display of superlative traits was grand and impressive, they really only represented a minor power boost in the story, enough to balance the tide between fighters, or to make an otherwise inept fighter capable of keeping track with a much more powerful fighter, like Kullilin and Nappa, Piccolo and Frieza or Piccolo and No. 17, or Piccolo/Tien against Cell. Conversely Ascended Vegeta vs. Semi-Perfect Cell, a mechanic that allows the enemy to level the playing field.

Dragon Ball gaming? Well I'm going to soapbox for a minute (sorry this is a pet peeve of mine) but the place to start would be in recognizing that the general perception of the series, at least among English speakers, is drastically to fatally flawed.

A lot of this I blame on the anime which doesn't do a terribly good job of representing the manga. How? Well by being chock full of filler, including pretty much every long power up scream fest, a lot of the zomgsopowerful reactions, and side action like planet rumbling, and so forth. This is all padding so they could get as close to 1:1 episode to chapter as possible. In the manga while still discussed in the lead up for dramatic purposes well... Goku first turns Super Saiyan in a few panels.

The other part is that no I don't think Toriyama necessarily did the best job of communicating the points he wanted. Like the whole point of explicit power levels is that they are totally misleading nonsense and everyone relying on the scouters was a total idiot. Now the real nub is that this isn't just in missing the way Earthling trained fighters could modify them on the spot, but that the entire concept isn't really all its cracked up to be. Of course I do think Toriyama kinda shot himself in the foot there by favoring a high melodrama combat style where what ultimately have to be small differences lead to completely one sided fights. However what I realized reading the manga and makes the artificial division in Dragon Ball in the anime into "two parts" is that it was always like that. You go back to the early tournaments and you see a lot of the same basic pattern where the mooks are one shotted or such and only a couple of plot relevant characters actually get to have a good fight.

Furthermore early on we loose pretty much any hope of gauging strength in some sort of absolute way. The Kamehameha is introduced blowing up a mountain, and Roshi not too long after that blows up the moon. Characters from Piccolo Daimao, to Nappa, to Gero and Cell displayed their strength by casually launching WMD grade attacks yet you rarely if ever see actual characters tanking hits of nearly that scale. And Roshi can disintegrate the moon, everyone from Vegeta onward can at least nominally do the same to the planet ("only" several times larger) but you have to go all the way to Beerus to get even an offhand mention of blowing up a sun. And again not like anyone actually tanks blows like that very often. Sure we can explain it away with some shenanigans about the nature of ki and such maybe but I want to offer a certain different conclusion...

Namely that there aren't the vast gaps in power everyone imagines. Rather everything is just super highly stylized for dramatic and coolness purposes and shouldn't be taken very literally. Now sure there is some increases in scale, but they aren't as big as are generally thought.

And don't take my word for it, go read the Buu arc. A few things I noticed I think people miss. First is SSJ 3, which actually accomplishes all of... nothing. No really absolutely nothing, Buu isn't taken down it and neither Gohan nor Vegetto use it. Especially in light of Super my conclusion is that it is actual Toriyama's intent that the whole thing is rather like Trunks roid form, actually flawed and not useful. The second thing? Well Buu doesn't get by on his strength, he gets by on his near immortality and seemingly endless stamina. Sure he's stronger the Cell let's say, but when Majin Vegeta can kill the bastard and he gets schooled by more or less everyone else that gets a power up that arc how can we say he's actually super duper extra mega more powerful then Cell? Answer: we can't.

And then of course there's just about everything in the two movies and Super revival, particularly the last arc where guess what... everyone is within striking distance of Goku (except you Yamcha, you suck) and the upcoming fight is very explicitly noted to require more then sheer power. Oh and Beerus is still well beyond anyone anyways on that front, probably all his peers too. And then there's the guys about those guys.


Okay so for actually RPing Dragon Ball. Well even if you totally disagree with my conclusions (I admit they could just be mine own fan wank) then I think it important to keep in mind if you want a viable game where in theory even modestly powerful people could ragequit and kill everyone not capable of surviving in space. Along with a lot of the other tactical potential Dragon Ball just sort of leaves hanging to focus on cool fist fights.

As for a system I would like to give a shout out to Exalted 3E. Aside from being well a kung fu game and stuff like the built in glowy aura or how, no really, going Super Saiyan is more or less the Brawl Charm crowner... its core combat mechanic of 'withering' attacks to build initiative (as a stand in for combat advantage) to only then launch 'decisive' ones that damage the potentially fairly small HP pool is supposed to be cinematic and I feel a good fit for a whole range of high action, high style anime/manga simulation. A couple of house rules to like letting you take Evocations/Charms to replace ki attacks (and modify the Burning Name merit for ki spam) and you could definitely build someone in the Dragon Ball style, while having a system built around that sort of super stylized play without completely abandoning crunchiness.

The differing power levels of characters might be slightly ofset by allowing a player to have more than one.

BESM does the trick if you are ready to do some homebrewing. Like Valor said earlier though it is extremely numbers heavy. Some people like it, some don't. You also need to know how BESM works intricately or your villains either curb stomp the opposition or they fall flat (the latter seems to be more likely). Do I think I could run a good Dragon Ball Z game with the system? Yes. Do I want to invest the time and effort to do so? Not unless it's the only game I'm running and playing in. Your players will also need to know it's somewhat experimental.

I have heard good things about OVA but after looking at it I don't think it would run a DBZ game well.

Originally Posted by AsenRG View Post
I doubt OVA would be a worst fit than BESM, but that might be just me.
Never played it and I didn't really give it an in depth read. For all I know it could be the perfect system lol.

Originally Posted by Rising Zan View Post
Never played it and I didn't really give it an in depth read. For all I know it could be the perfect system lol.
I've read both, which is why I doubted the idea that BEST would be better.

I really think we should just collude together and create a SIMPLE system for playing Dragon Ball Z style games.


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