It Doesn't Fucking Work
Original SA post
Hold on to your asses, ass-holders!
It's 1998, and you're just getting off the school bus. Life in the 7th grade is rough, but every day holds the promise of coming home to screaming and energy blasts on TV. You and your friends bathe in the shoddy animation and almost non-existent plot progression every day, wishing you could be like your heroes Goku and the bald guy who dies all the time. After a trip to the game store, your pal Jimmy has brought you the answer to your wishes!
Jimmy knows not what suffering he brings!
Hi, I'll be ruining your day by filling your brain with the knowledge that this game exists! None of you deserve this and I'm sorry. I'll get this out of the way right now:
this game doesn't work. The rules fall apart from the word "go."
Since this isn't a game with an original setting, and since nearly everything laughable about this game exists in the mechanics, this first post will be glossing over a lot of the setting stuff because it's DBZ and everyone just wants to know how to do backflips and throw fireballs (spoilers: very poorly!). I can certainly go back later to cover what I zoom past, so if anyone wants to know more about something, just let me know. As much as I'm going to make fun of this, I still like the show. This is mostly because I'm easily entertained by bright colors and motion, much like a small child. That's why I have to share this game with you all, because I feel like people need to know how something could possibly not live up to the lofty standards of the Citizen Kane of Anime.
Much to the surprise of anyone who doesn't seek out disappointment, R. Talsorian made a tabletop RPG out of Dragon Ball Z in 1999. Written by Mike Pondsmith of Cyberpunk fame, the game was an attempt to cram an already-shoddy cartoon into a simplified version of their
system. Fuzion was a mix of Cyberpunk's Interlock ruleset and some edition of HERO, and R.Tal used it for a few different games. It wasn't the first anime-based RPG the company had released, but I can hardly imagine that it wasn't their worst.
The Fuzion system was Talsorian's attempt at a universal system, and had two levels complexity depending on how much crunch a game called for: Total Fuzion was the default ruleset and was fairly crunchy but too overwhelming, while Instant Fuzion was meant to be very simple and lighter on rules and chargen options. DBZ used Instant Fuzion, since you probably don't need a lot of stats for such a one-note game.
The DBZ RPG had three books (the core book and two supplements) that each covered one of the show's major story arcs (sort of). The core rulebook covers the first arc, the Saiyan Saga. The first supplement carries through the Frieza Saga, and the second one covers Garlic Jr. and the Android Saga. It's sort of the weird book since Garlic Jr. was pretty much just filler in a show that already goes nowhere, and the "Android Saga" is really just the first half of a major arc, and furthermore
alright let's just move on.
IF YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT THE SETTING, SKIP THIS!
Dragon Ball Z, Abridged
The book opens with a bunch of background about the show, since they are at least trying to pretend that someone who buys the game might not have actually seen the show. The first ten or so pages is a synopsis of the Saiyan Saga, followed by stats and summaries of the show's main characters that appear during the episodes the book covers. The character write-ups aren't bad, and there's some sidebars that explain puns or references in character names or mannerisms. It's interesting if you're a fan of the show, and if you're not a fan of the show then you probably don't have this little bundle of regret in the first place.
After the character write-ups is about 30 pages of information about the rich, detailed setting of the Dragon Ball universe. Like the previous chapter, it's really more of a reference to the game's intended audience. There's a couple spots where it goes into detail for the heck of it, but everything important is made pretty clear in the TV show. I'll go over the basics:
Good gravy, just tell me how to roll dice!
The show is called Dragon Ball because there are seven Dragon Balls. Anyone who can gather them all into one place can summon the Eternal Dragon, who will grant one wish. There's a couple restrictions on wishes, but for the most part you can get whatever you want.
Earth is pretty much the same as the real world, except there's animal people too. Animal people were sort of all over the place in the original Dragon Ball, but they don't show up as much in Z. Mechanically, they work the same as humans.
There's other inhabited planets, and the show just becomes lousy with aliens pretty quick. The Frieza Saga book has rules for creating your own aliens with unique abilities. One planet in particular, Namek, is where the guy who made the Dragon Balls came from and has its own set of more powerful Dragon Balls! This is an important plot point in the show.
The afterlife, or Other World, is fucking huge! Strong or virtuous people get to keep their bodies in the afterlife, and there's a couple of ways to return to the land of the living. You could run an entire campaign in the Other World (if the game was remotely playable).
After all the setting stuff, the game finally gets around to telling you how the rules work. This is the worst decision the book ever makes, and it never gets better from here. Strap in!
As I mentioned before, the DBZ RPG uses the Instant Fuzion rules. Rolls are resolved by Stat + Skill + 3d6. This seems reasonable at first but we're going to find out why this just won't do. Anyway, characters get four Basic Characteristics and three-ish Derived Characteristics. Your basic stats are:
How strong and tough you are.
How smart, willful, and perceptive you are.
Your natural aptitude for hitting a thing.
How far you move per turn. 1 Move = 2 yards.
Your derived stats are:
Defense (PHYS x5):
Subtract this from incoming damage before applying it to your hit points.
Hits (PHYS x10):
These are your hit points. When you get to zero, you're dead or knocked out, depending on how the GM decides.
Power Up (PHYS+MEN x10):
How much energy you can gather in one turn. Energy is used for all your powers, like flight and blowing up moons.
How much energy you can gather over the course of a single fight. This is a weird stat, since you don't derive it from your basic stats. Instead, you roll two d6s. Multiply the first die rolled by 100, and the second die by 10. Add these together for your starting Power Level.
Power Level being randomly determined is pretty weird since it's the only part of chargen that is random. You'll also notice that it's possible to have a Power Up higher than your Power Level. That just means you'll gather all your available energy at once. Good luck with that! Next, you have six skills. Each skill is linked to a basic stat, though some rolls might allow you to use a different stat than you normally would. The skills are:
Anything involving physical activity outside of combat.
Using your noggin for things other than headbutts. Also works as your social skill.
Dodging energy balls, dodging fists. Does not dodge responsibilities.
Unarmed combat. Special techniques, which I'll cover later, will reduce this in exchange for extra damage.
Beating chumps over the head with a sword or a car or a moon.
Power (PHYS or MEN):
Your ability to use special powers that cost energy.
The rest of the chapter is about combat, but since that's where the bulk of the game's problems start I'm going to hold off until the next post to give it the attention it deserves. Instead, let's jump ahead a little bit and look at how to make a character.
I want to be a Super Saiyan 5 and I'm stronger than ten Gokus put together!
Chargen starts with a very important question that every player is going to ask: can I be a Saiyan?!? The answer is
In order to make a Saiyan character, you must roll a 2 on 2d6. Rolling a 2 or 3 on 2d6 lets you make a Namekkian, since weird slug dudes are the next best thing to fearsome monkey warriors. Otherwise, you're a standard human. Like I mentioned way back in the setting portion of this post, "human" also includes all the animal people so you can be a wolf-headed guy or whatever. Mechanically, though, you still don't get any special treatment if you didn't Roll To Be Better. After that is a bunch of stuff about having a basic personality and background. It's DBZ, you really don't need a detailed background.
Now you finally get to throw some numbers around! The first thing is your basic stats. As above, you have four of them. You get 40 points to distribute however you want. In Fuzion, a stat of 3-4 is average, 7-8 is going to put you in the top 1% of human ability, and going above 10 is clearly superhuman. That being said, basic stats are very rarely used alone, so having a high skill can make up for a low basic stat. That's a good thing, because
the Dragon Ball Z RPG never lets you increase your basic stats!
Whatever you assign now, that's what you've got forever. Spending XP allows you to raise skills and derived stats, but not basic stats for whatever reason. This is even dumber when you realize that the updated stats in each book for the show's characters increase their basic stats with everything else.
After assigning your basic stats and determining your derived stats from them, you get 50 points for your skills. You don't have to put points in every skill, and rolling a skill you don't have just uses your basic stat like any other roll.
Finally, you can make up special techniques. Special techniques are hand-to-hand attacks with a goofy name you get to make up, a sweet description of how you want to maul your opponent, and a skill cost. The skill cost can be whatever you want, but when you use your special technique you take a penalty to COM+Fighting+3d6 equal to the cost. The tradeoff is that for every point you reduce your skill, your attack will do one extra die of damage. Basic melee damage is a number of d6s equal to your PHYS+Fighting, so special techniques are a good way to make up for a low PHYS. You can make up as many special techniques as you want, there's no point cost. That's all there is, your character is done!
NEXT TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z!
In the next post I'll get into the two things DBZ is really about : punching dudes and throwing energy blasts. Here's a teaser, it does neither one well at the start and only gets worse as the game goes on!
I cast Destructo Disk at the darkness.
Original SA post
LAST TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z!
Alright, so last post I went over the character stats and how to make a well-written, compelling character with realistic motivations. Today we're going to learn how to throw a punch. It's harder than it seems!
As a quick recap, the Fuzion system's core resolution mechanic is Stat + Skill + Dice vs a target number or opposing roll. DBZ uses 3d6 for dice, so for those who are math-inclined you've got an average roll of 10 and a range of 3-18. This is pretty important! Rolling a natural 3 is an automatic failure, but rolling a natural 18 is NOT an automatic success. That is also pretty important!
As a reminder, during chargen you have 40 stat points for four stats and 50 skill points for six skills. Some of you with high power levels might be sensing a strange and evil power on the horizon.
I cast Destructo Disk at the darkness.
So it's DBZ, you've done the standing around posing and trying to intimidate each other with vague threats of cartoon-friendly violence and blasting your opponent into the Other World. Now it's time for action! FINALLY! Initiative is determined by highest Mental stat, ties are broken by highest Combat stat, and further ties go simultaneously, because that's not a giant clusterfuck or anything. The basic attack roll in DBZ is Attacker's Combat + Fighting (or Weapon) + 3d6, and the defender rolls Combat + Evasion + 3d6. In most cases, the defender has the chance to roll defense against all attacks in a turn and there is no penalty for multiple defenses.
Let's take a second to look at some math. The rolling seems pretty simple, but there's a little problem that can crop up just about the second you start the game. As stated above, most any character can roll on a skill check is Stat + Skill + 18, and there's no automatic success. That means that if the difference between two characters Stat + Skill on any given roll is 19 or more, the only way for the character with the higher total to fail is to roll a 3. That wouldn't be so bad if having a skill difference of 19 was a rare thing, but it's pretty common for it to come up while you're making your characters and only gets worse when people start spending XP.
Let's say you manage to kick someone in their stupid mouth. I think I said this in the last post, but damage from melee attacks is a number of d6s equal to your base (PHYS + Fighting) for unarmed attacks, or (PHYS + Weapon + (weapon's bonus damage)) for armed attacks. Special techniques add to the base total, not the adjusted skill total. Ranged attacks, including energy powers, do a specific amount of dice related to the method of attack. Roll all those dice somehow and add them up, then subtract the victim's Defense. Any damage left over is subtracted from the victim's Hits. If a character's Hits drop to 0 or below, the character is either knocked out or dead, depending on what the GM thinks makes sense.
Combat is divided into Phases of the game-standard, oddly specific 3 seconds. Four Phases make up one Round. Rounds are important because at the end of each Round, everyone gets, uh, hmm,
of lost Hits back. See, this is where the game does not work as written. On page 67 you hae the following text:
Every 4 Phases is called a Round.
At the end of each Round all heroes and bad guys get back any Hits they have lost, up to (2 x their Physical) in lost Hits, if the attacks have not been especially lethal (such as bullets, knives, or lasers). If the heroes or bad guys have lost more Hits than they recover, they are still hurt. They must wait until the end of the next Round to get back more Hits.
All fine, except that bit about "lethal attacks" for reason I'll cover later. But then on page 70, under a section called Recovering, you find this:
Generally, each Round in which you are resting or being healed, you will get back as many Hits as your Physical Characteristic.
Example: Karma has a Physical of 5. He gets back 5 Hits every Round.
However, if the GM has determined that the damage you have taken is especially deadly (you were stabbed, shot, etc.), your recovery rate may be in hours or even days
Which is it? Who the hell knows? I lean towards the PHYS x2 rule because the combat quick sheet on page 97 also says it. As far as I can tell, this has never been errata'd in the books. If it was ever clarified on R. Tal's website, that shit's dust in the wind because they dropped any mention of this game a long time ago. The Androids book has a small FAQ but it doesn't say anything either. You have to house rule this right out of the box, because it's going to come up almost immediately.
Before we move on, let's go back a second and look at that whole "lethal wounds" business because that seems a little out of place. Before we even look at numbers, let's just think about it in terms of the source material. The show has people throwing around nuclear bombs that they make out of yelling and believing in themselves. Nappa cuts a fighter jet in half with his bare hands as a way of stretching after a long car ride. Piccolo kills the moon to keep Goku's son from going King Kong in the empty countryside. Frieza blows up an entire planet (eventually) as a distraction. Even Yamcha could level a city if he had time and motivation.
Is this book really trying to tell me a gun or knife is a serious threat?!?
Well, probably not. See, I'm almost certain that is standard Fuzion stuff they just tossed in there. Total Fuzion products have similar explanations, so they may have just copied and pasted to fill space. Then there's the sidebar on page 70 with some example weapon stats. Weapons in DBZ don't really do anything other than add extra damage or range. A sword adds 6 dice of damage to your melee attack, while a rifle would do a straight 10 dice at up to 350 yards. On average, 10 dice will be around 35 damage, which means any starting character with PHYS 7 (which grants 35 Defense) doesn't have to worry a whole lot. PHYS 12 gives 60 Defense, which means even a perfect damage roll from small arms gets ignored entirely.
Despite what game text implies, there are no different types of damage. Total Fuzion games have Hits and Stun for non-lethal attacks, but DBZ just mashes it all into one thing. (More specifically, a sidebar notes that if you were to convert DBZ into Total Fuzion, energy attacks would do a shitload of Stun damage, which can still kill someone if you apply enough.)
Fuck it, this is DBZ! Only chumps use guns! The few times someone brings a sword to a fistfight, it either breaks or just gets ignored almost immediately anyway, so let's move on. Every Phase, you get one-ish action. For reference, here's the action list:
Attack: Any method of trying to inflict pain, including using your powers.
Block: Stop any one hand-to-hand attack. The target number is the attacker's COM + Fighting/Weapon + 10.
We'll come back to this.
Dodge: Add +3 to your Evasion skill for this Phase against all attacks. You may not attack this Phase.
Get Up: Stand up if you have been knocked down. You may take another action except for Run or Sprint this Phase.
Grab: You can grab a person or object. Rolls to grab are at -2, and your Evasion skill takes a -3 penalty this Phase.
This one's also suspect.
Other Action: Any single action the GM allows you to do in one Phase.
Move: Travel up to half your Move stat, plus perform one other action (except for Run or Sprint).
Run: Travel up to your full Move stat.
Sprint: Travel up to twice your Move stat. Your Combat stat is reduced by half and your Evasion skill is 0 until your next Phase.
Throw: Throw a person or object. Rolls to throw are at -4 penalty if the object is not made for throwing.
POWER UP: Gather energy up to your Power Up stat.
Most of those are fine, but I took the liberty of rewording them for clarity because this game needs all the help it can get. I marked two of them, however, as being worthy of a little more attention. Let's start with Block.
Block is weird because of the complete lack of timing on the action. Nothing tells you when you are supposed to use this action. To go back to Total Fuzion for a second, there's an action called Abort that's missing from DBZ. Abort lets you forfeit your action to make a defensive action (Block or Dodge in this game) if you haven't taken your turn yet. Total Fuzion's Block also makes it so that a blocked opponent must act after you on the next Phase, regardless of turn order. All that neat stuff is missing in DBZ, which means you have to use Block preemptively I guess? The Androids book actually introduces the Abort action into the game but doesn't add the bonus effect for block, which would make it extremely useful.
Then we have Grab, which is notable for only being mentioned in the core book in that list above. It isn't mentioned again until the Androids book that came out three years later, which does provide the game-pace-crushing rules for combat hugs that us nerds crave. In general, the rules section of the Androids book makes a noble attempt at damage control, but it was too little too late. I'll cover the Frieza and Android books to show what happens when you pretend a broken game works fine and then throw even more shit into it.
NEXT TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z!
In the next post I'll cover how Energy and Powers factor into this hot mess. It's not DBZ unless there's bright lights and yelling and zwee fighting, so I think it's best that I focus on that in a separate post instead of cramming it into this already-long post.
This game will explode in five minutes!
Original SA post
LAST TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z
In the last post we learned about beating people up with your hands and feet, which is what happens when the animators had some money to work with. Today's kung fu lesson is about the thing everyone knows DBZ is really about : flying and fireballs! So far, you might have been thinking that some rules are poorly-designed but still maybe a little workable. Today I'm going to send that idea into the Other World.
This game will explode in five minutes!
In the character stats, I explained that you have a Power Level (determined by dice) and a Power Up stat (PHYS + MEN x10), as well as a Power skill. In the combat basics, you saw the Power Up action. Let's see how all of this works.
When a fight starts up, all characters have no energy available to use. To get some ki to work with, you use the Power Up action on your turn. It's never really defined whether or not you can power up before a fight or how long you can hold it after a fight, so I guess the moment someone decides to gather power is when combat time starts. When you use a Power Up action, you get energy points up to your Power Up stat. You keep those energy points until you use them up or get knocked out, and it's sort of implied that you let it go after a fight's over but they never really say.
Your Power Level is the maximum amount of energy points you can gather until you have a chance to recover outside of combat. For example, if you have a Power Level of 600 and a Power Up of 200, you could Power Up three times before you hit your maximum unless you pace yourself and don't take the full 200 energy with each action. Also of note, to make the math a little faster you can only gather energy in multiples of 10. Powering Up for 130 energy is fine, but 145 isn't. If your Power Up is higher than the amount of energy left in your Power Level, you just get whatever is left. It is possible to have a Power Up higher than your Power Level, especially at character creation, so Powering Up just gets you all of it at once.
Outside of combat you recover used energy at a rate of your Power Up per hour. The GM could also grant ways of recovering used energy faster, like a Senzu Bean to instantly recover your full Power Level.
Now that you have some power ready, let's see what you can do it.
This is the big one! Channel your energy into into a projectile of planet-shattering destructive power. Every point you put into a blast equals 1d6 damage. You can also add special effects to make it more effective at the expense of making the power harder to use.
makes it more likely to hit,
lets you aim around cover,
blows shit up in a wide radius,
makes shit NOT blow up right away,
shoots at multiple targets, and
can bypass part or all of a Deflection.
This is your main defense against energy blasts, and another of the most problematic things in the game. Energy you put into a Deflection becomes a force-field that subtracts damage dice from incoming blasts at a 1-to-1 rate. A 50 point Deflection will nullify a 50 point blast, and reduce a 70 point blast to 20 dice of damage. However, you must raise a Deflection ahead of time; it's not a reflexive action. Once you spend energy, the Deflection will stay in place until it's dropped voluntarily, it's overcome by a stronger energy blast, or you are hit by a physical attack. Blasts with Deadly Effect can ignore part of all of a Deflection depending on how much the attacker added to the difficulty of the blast.
Also important to note, if your Deflection is higher than an incoming blast's damage, the difference in power becomes a REflection and is inflicted on the attacker. I've never understood why this is a rule because it wasn't a regular occurrence in the show. It's also some sort of fiddly math and timing and could set up some really stupid ping-pong situations depending on how you interpret the rules. For reference, this is the exact text on page 92:
If a Deflection is Powered Up higher than the Energy attack it's deflecting, it automatically turns into a
The excess energy blasts back at the original attacker and does damage to him!
Example: Karma Sen tackles the Master of Shadows with his best 100 point Fire Fusion Fingerbolt. The Master carelessly throws up a 200 point Deflection. 100 points Reflect back on Karma Sen, knocking him into the next dimension.
So the the real question here is: can damage from a Reflection be Deflected? A sidebar on page 95 indicates that you can, in fact, use your own Deflection to stop a Reflection. However, that can create a situation I call
Infinite Death Tennis.
Let's say Karma Sen did have a Deflection of 200 up as well. The 100 damage blast he throws gets a 100 damage Reflection tossed back at him. That creates a 100 damage Reflection of his own that gets sent back at the Master of Shadows, which in turn gets re-Reflected for 100 damage and the cycle continues without resolution because you can't actually make an Evasion roll against Reflections. Deflections don't actually get reduced in power by weaker attacks, so you pretty much manage to lock up the game because there is no way to resolve the situation.
This lets you spend energy to move extremely quickly. Flight is bought in 10 minute increments, and the cost is determined by the maximum speed you plan to travel. Less than Mach 1 costs 10 energy, Mach 1 costs 20 energy, and every Mach above 1 costs an extra 20 energy. The book notes that travelling at speeds faster than Mach 4 in an atmosphere will burn up your clothes which I don't remember ever happening in the show. Moving faster than Mach 1 leaves afterimages that are just there to describe cool things happening unless you are moving Mach 6 or faster. At that speed you are moving faster than the eye can see and opponents need to make a difficulty 22 Mind skill check to locate you. I guess when they do find you, you're naked. Obviously, that never happened in the show. I'd think you could also use the afterimages to distract your opponent since that happens fairly often in the show but no, you're either making blurry shadows but can be hit with no penalty or you're invisible but naked. Also note that this doesn't actually increase your Move stat, so you're about to do all the speed-to-distance calculations yourself. The book helpfully suggests that anyone within a mile of each other can reach other targets.
This is probably the most obviously broken thing in the damn game. Reflex Boost gives you two options,
Faster Reactions allows you to spend energy to boost your Mental stat for initiative purposes on the following turn. Every 10 energy spent boosts your Mental by 1, and it lasts until the next Phase. Increased Actions is the real shit. Every 10 energy spent on Increased Actions gives you an extra action on your next Phase. The only limit to how many actions you can buy is what you can roll on the Power skill check (I'll get into that later). Combining the two options lets you go first and then make a couple dozen attacks and get as much power as you want and throw up a Deflection just in case anything survives. It's not until the Androids book that they suggest staggering out extra actions into a sort of initiative pass system, but even that doesn't keep this from being the I Win button. More actions = better than, the end.
Every 10 energy spent boosts your Physical stat by 2 until your next turn. Pretty simple.
So if superspeed let you make afterimages that don't do anything, this lets you make afterimages that sort of do something. Sort of. See, it doesn't tell you what stats the clones have. I guess the clones are supposed to have the same stats as you but it never actually makes that clear. Also, while any clones are active neighter the clones nor the original can use any other powers. This includes Deflections. The last problem is that while clones and extra actions are two ways to get multiple actions per Phase, clones are way more expensive and less flexible. Clones cost 100 energy per clone per Phase, which is the same cost as 10 extra actions. So for 100 energy you can get two actions with no powers, or 11 actions with all of your powers available. That's a pretty easy choice.
Of course, it would be ridiculous if you could just dump as much power as you wanted into any attack, so powers have a skill check to use properly. The difficulty of a Power skill check is (Power Cost / 10). A 400 energy blast has a difficulty of 40, for example. As mentioned above, the special effects on energy blasts increase the difficulty of the Power roll, not the actual energy cost. This is where the game starts to house-rule itself, suggesting that to speed up play you might want to only require the Power roll the first time a a character uses a specific power in a fight, then assume they pass the roll for the rest of combat. While that would speed up play, it also just blows away whatever semblance of balance the Power rolls might have tried to implement. In the case of targeted powers like blasts or some of the powers introduced in later books, after you make the Power roll to control the power, you make another Power roll to hit.
Hitting with a massive energy wave is pretty cool, but now it's time to roll damage. This is another spot where the game house-rules itself. Rolling 500d6 is not really as fun as it sounds with real dice but it's a central part of the game so they give you options to speed things up. The first option is the fastest, but also the dumbest: ignore the dice and just apply the points. This ends up fucking with the game's already loose math by making fights take longer due to attacks doing less damage and also forcing players to spend more energy to get as much damage as they could by rolling. The second option is more reasonable, and should have just replaced the first option entirely: multiply the number of dice by 3. That's much closer to what an average roll will be, still pretty quick math, and avoids the problems with the first option. The last option is also pretty reasonable while letting people actually roll damage because rolling dice is fun: drop the zeroes, roll however many dice are left and add them up, then add the zeroes back. For example, a 500 dice attack would become 5d6x100 while a 22,000 point attack would become 22d6x1000. You'll still need a buttload of dice but it's way more feasible than rolling 22,000 dice.
Nerds of Earth, lend me your power!
Goku's Spirit Bomb gets its own sidebar on page 87. The way that they rule it, you get a multiplier to your Power Level and Power Up based on how many people lend you power. A few thousand people gets you a x2 bonus, a small country gets you x10, and if you can get a whole planet to kickstart your attack you get a nice x100,000 multiplier. That's a shitload of power, so naturally nobody but Goku gets to do it unless you convince the GM to let you learn it.
NEXT TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z!
In the next post I'll be covering what happens when the game manages to survive the first combat: GETTING HUGE!
Original SA post
LAST TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z!
It's been a little while, hasn't it? As a refresher, last time I made words about this game I talked about how to just punch a green dude a couple dozen times a turn before anyone gets the chance to throw a fireball! That's good, because it prevents the game from locking up the first time someone actually defends themselves from an energy attack, thanks to the Infinite Death Tennis scenario. Today's post is about what happens if you manage to actually complete a fight without the game imploding: Get Huge or Die Trying!
So I know I've been hammering this point home pretty hard, but clearly nobody actually playtested this game because the math doesn't work. In an earlier post I talked about how the 3d6 roll for skills means that it's possible to make someone that's untouchable or can't possibly miss another starting character by having a skill difference of more than 19. Today we'll turn "possible" into "inevitable," and also look at how R. Talsorian suggests you balance enemies in an environment where balance is a polite suggestion at best.
For some reason they decided to cram the Experience section into the middle of the Powers chapter. It first details the ways you can gain XP:
Regular training under normal, peaceful-ish conditions gets you 10 XP per year. This is slow and boring.
This is a better way to get XP without actually doing anything in the plot. Each year of training under extra gravity gives 10 XP times the level of gravity you trained in, which is basically like cramming a bunch of years of training into one. In an example of why Saiyans are just better, normal humans can only increase their gravity threshold by two per year and can never train under more than 6 times normal gravity. Saiyans and half-Saiyans, on the other hand, can increase up to ten gravities per year and have no known limit. Oddly, there's no mention of Namekkians or other types of aliens.
If you get blasted into the Other World and the GM lets you keep playing as a dead person, training under King Kai's tutelage grants 30 XP per day! The downside to this is that you are dead so unless the whole party is dead and going on adventures in the afterlife, this is a pretty shitty way to split the party. Still, 30 per day is a whole lot when you're just starting out.
The Dragon Balls:
If you can gather the Dragon Balls and summon Shenron, you could certainly wish for a shitload of power. The book suggests that giving 5000 XP after going through some huge challenges is reasonable, but "reasonable" isn't this game at all so go nuts.
This will be the most common way of gaining XP. You get XP from any fight that you survive, whether you win or lose. Divide your opponent's Power Level by your own, rounding up. Multiply that result by 10 to determine how much XP you get.
They also suggest that the GM might just give you bonus XP for whatever reason seems appropriate. Oddly, the math on getting XP from fights basically favors keeping your Power Level stat relatively low for maximum XP gain. Since the most useful powers are "going first" and "going more" and both of those are pretty cheap, not spending a lot on raising Power Level is pretty doable.
Once you have some XP burning a hole in your weighted clothing, it's time to apply it to your stats. Since this game tries to be pretty easy on the math, XP is spent on your stats on a one-for-one basis. However, you must spend XP in increments of 10. No splitting it up to get 5 points in a skill and 5 points to boost your Defense. You're allowed to spend XP on Power Level, Power Up, your skills, your Defense, or your Hits.
I said this in the first post, but at no point are you allowed to raise your four basic stats. Spending energy lets you temporarily boost those stats for a short time, but that's it. You can raise your Fighting and Evasion skills all you want to make up for a low starting Combat score, but a crazy-high starting Mental will let you get the first turn at the start of just about every fight and nobody can really do anything about it.
So to put everything together: the core resolution mechanic of the game (stat+skill+3d6) doesn't work well once people have a difference in skill totals higher than 19. There is an auto-fail roll (natural 3) but no auto-success. Character advancement in skills is done in multiples of 10, which means it only takes takes two Evasion skill boosts to destroy any chance the GM had to balance enemies. The moment any one PC has 20 more Evasion than another, any enemy with a real threat of being able to hit that PC will only miss the other PCs on a natural 3, which is roughly a 0.5% chance. How does the book suggest you balance villains when the math is that delicate? Add up all their stats!
Here's a sidebar from page 114:
One Man Gang
For example, say your players have Combat Characterists of 20, 30, and 45 respectively. A bad guy with a total Combat of 95 (20+30+45) is
going to make them sweat.
I, uh... hmm. That's all there is in the entire GM chapter of the book. The rest is all just the standard "how to make a game plot" stuff we've seen a million times. That helpful suggestion does nothing to address the problem, and might just end up making a bad guy that never misses and flattens the PC . It also doesn't help that they don't tell you what to make the the villain's skills or defense or anything. The fact is, there is no real good way to do it. Major enemy NPCs will have to have extremely high Defense and Hits to endure more than a couple Phases of a group of PCs going to town, while not having enough offensive capability to vaporize someone with a glance. Buying extra actions with energy means that whoever goes first will probably win, and since that's probably going to be the GM's galaxy-threatening alien supervillain they'll probably just wipe the whole team. At least that means everyone gets to train under King Kai!
The second-smartest way to stat out enemy NPCs is decide roughly how many minor and major hits they can take before dying, decide a rough percentage of a player's health to take away on a failed evade, then just fake-roll some dice and tell the players "you need to roll a 12 or better to evade his attack" on his turn. The smartest way to stat out NPCs is to put this book away and just watch the show with your friends. It's not high entertainment, but it's a damn sight smarter than this game ever was.
Your wish... is granted.
That about does it for the core book of the Dragon Ball Z Anime Adventure Game! Thanks for reading, and I'm sorry. There's still two supplements to cover, but I'm not sure if I want to jump on them right away or if I want to write about Capcom World Tournament, the d20 Street Fighter RPG that almost was. When ever I decide to get around to the Frieza and Androids books, they'll definitely go much faster than the core book. If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, please let me know!