Combat Encounters are the bread and butter of DBU. The flashy blows, mountain destroying attacks, and spiky golden hair all occur primarily during Combat Encounters. As such, knowing how to run one is important. With some experimentation, it’s easy, so don’t worry! To help you get started, we have made this section here.
Before even rolling Initiative, the first thing you have to account for in a Combat Encounter is the combatants: which characters are currently engaged in this Combat Encounter? Once you know that and who each character sees as Allies and Opponents (though that is normally fairly obvious), you can begin the Combat Encounter in earnest.
Numbers. Larger numbers will typically denote an advantage, so when you’re handling a large number of Minions or opponents for the players, ensure that they are easily taken out as individuals. If they are all resilient and durable, hard to take down, then the players will be overwhelmed by their sheer numbers due to factors like Diminishing Defence and the possibility of botching. It’s fun to send a wave of enemies after your opponents but if the numbers become too high, consider re-evaluating your methodology and consider the Horde Battle Optional Rules.
One way to deal with this is to have your numbers attack in waves. Have the big bad dude leading them stand at the back, sending a casual wave after wave to try and wear down the players. What will they do? Force their ways through and hope not to burn their resources? Find a new route to the enemy? Call in support they’ve accumulated from role playing outside of combat? The solutions you provide are up to you, but make sure that not every Combat Encounter is a simple ‘beat up all the bad guys’, it’ll get tiring after a while, especially if they tend to come in large numbers.
Proper Build Up. To make a Combat Encounter fulfilling, it’s important to engage in proper build up. It’s very easy to make a powerful enemy, put them in front of the party and let them go to town until the party gains a new power up or some other benefit to squeeze out a victory. This is fine on occasion, of course, but generally speaking you’ll want your encounters to have a proper build up. What that means is that you’ll want to introduce antagonists earlier than when they are fought for the final time, allow them time to antagonize the party with mooks, weaker soldiers, and by directly opposing whatever it is they are trying to do. Let them simply beat the players if that’s in the cards, or encourage players to flee if they feel overwhelmed. Too many players think that every fight must be fought to the death, but escaping an opponent is always a valid strategy… Even Goku and Vegeta do it from time to time!
The importance is in making the Adversary feel like a threat. They could be hyped up by other characters fearing their name, or trusted allies warning the players not to engage with them, but the more that they are hyped up, the more that they have to live up to the fight.
Fun Encounters. Let’s go over again how it is easy to put down a giant beatstick like Z Broly and introduce the party to a whole new world of pain. It’s fun and sometimes, it can be really cool to overcome that giant wall! Again, though, everything is better in moderation. If Z Broly came in and beat Goku with two hits, no one would have fun with that Combat Encounter. This is why the first rule of any Combat Encounter is that it should be fun. Consider the pace of the fight and don’t have the opponent unleash everything they have right away. Again, this system is primarily one for role play, so ham it up. Have an enemy so overwhelmed by their own brilliance and power that they hold back and barely make use of their full power until backed into a corner. A fight is always more interesting if there are ups and downs, with an unclear vision of who may be the overarching victor. An Adversary should be a wall to overcome, not an unassailable challenge.
Another way to make a fight fun and interesting is to add in additional mechanics. Let’s once again look to Z Broly, you could look at how Goku defeated him in one of two ways: perhaps he has a weakened spot on his chest, where Goku was able to plunge through with all of his power behind it OR maybe that Z Broly’s Soak Value decreased as his power continued to increase due to his body not being able to handle his own overflowing strength. Either way, it makes a mechanic where once the players figure it out, they can use it to their advantage.
Rewards. Consider what your players get for overcoming your Combat Encounter. Most of the time, the victory itself will suffice, as they’ve overcome an enemy and potentially saved an ally from certain doom. Just being able to have allies who can give potential benefits, such as new Apparel or Accessories, can be a huge boon for a party! Of course, harder Combat Encounters should give better rewards. Don’t be above letting people take weapons off the corpses of defeated enemies or steal their Accessories if they’re interesting. Maybe one of the enemies revealed a Fruit from the Tree of Might, only for their arm to be sliced off when they tried to take a bite. What a nice reward that would be!
Notable Combat Encounters may give their rewards in the middle of the Combat Encounter, such as a character gaining access to Super Saiyan. In these cases, it’s usually best to also give a Power Level or something of that ilk, but that will be covered in Progression.