Through gaining power, characters are able to overcome larger and larger obstacles. On the road to the strongest, there are many steps to climb. Your players will want to feel themselves become stronger, so let’s discuss what that means.
With all the tools available to make your players stronger, it may seem a little overwhelming at first. Here, we’ll break down some of the options and generally how we think they should be used.
Power Levels. This is the main way in which you will increase your player’s strength, allowing them to gain more Life Points, Ki Points, Character Perks (or the derivative options of them) and to make their Stress Tests easier to handle more powerful transformations. Usually, we suggest giving a total of 5 Power Levels over a large, overarching story arc. Think, for example, like the Namek Saga. If your players were to go through that, entering at Power Level 5, then they will leave at Power Level 10. The mark of a new Tier of Power can be useful to make an exciting climax or to be a huge incentive to finish the current story and give a huge reward, ready for the next upcoming saga of your overarching narrative.
Transformations. Aside from Power Levels, one of the most important mechanics of DBU is Transformations. They tend to have the biggest impact on a character’s strength and, as a result, should be handed out with some degree of reverence. Gaining a new Transformation should be done as the apex of a character’s current story arc or a culmination of various efforts they’ve put in throughout the current saga. The most obvious example would be the Super Saiyan Transformation. It is a form awoken by anger, but there’s more to it than that. Vegeta became furious any number of times but hadn’t achieved the form. In a similar vein, you can hold off similar transformations in which the ‘trigger’ would seem to be pulled until a character seems worthy of it or has properly earned it.
Generally, it’s up to each ARC how they want to handle Transformations but the best way to consider it is to think of Transformations as a numbers game. You don’t really want to give more than 1~2 transformations per base Tier of Power and typically, we’re only going to be looking at 1 unless the 2 transformations are of different Transformation Types (Manifested Power/Alternate Form/Enhancement Power/Legendary Form), but even then it’s ultimately about the level of power you want to have in your game. We’d suggest newer ARCs definitely lean to a lower amount of Transformations, as the increased amount of power and number of Traits may make things difficult to follow at first and may make balancing encounters a little tricky as a result.
Ultimately, how you handle Transformations is up to you, but do consider the route that Goku went as a potential guide to how we’d suggest their usage. That is to say, Goku obtained the Unlocked Potential Manifested Power first from the Ultra Divine Water, followed by the Kaioken through King Kai’s teachings, then the Super Saiyan Transformation and its following upgrades before finally stepping into the realm of the gods through the Super Saiyan God Legendary Form. While this will vary from build to build (especially in the case of players interested in Pure Resolve or Awoken), Manifested Powers are a great ‘soft’ start to building strength due to their typically lower power, while Enhancement Powers are great for bursts of strength and Alternate Forms are wonderful to indicate reaching a whole new level of power thanks to the Ki Multiplier effects and their easier Stress Tests. Legendary Forms, as a culmination of all other Transformation Types, exist in a realm beyond the others (except for Awoken) and therefore should be given out with great care due to their amazing might. Aside from stages of a singular Legendary Form, no character should realistically have 2 Legendary Forms – with some exception being considered for characters who reach Tier of Power 6.
Keep in mind that while Dragon Ball Z is the influence, generally speaking the characters there sway in power by such huge amounts that you shouldn’t be looking to what people have gained there as a reference for your own game.
Downtime. Every tool for progression can be handled purely narratively and thus, Downtime is an Optional Rule that is not required in most campaigns. It is an option for if you want players to spend dedicated time away from the campaign readying themselves, rather than focusing deeply on the current plot. Although an Optional Rule, it is a wonderful tool for allowing players to take the reins on their own growth. Though, as a result, it does require constant observation but it can be very fun to allow your players to sit down and figure out, for themselves, how they prepare for the next encounter.
Other Rewards. Beyond what is shown here, you can also reward players’ efforts by granting them pieces of equipment that have powers beyond what they could typically obtain (Special Items & Special Apparel Qualities) or give them more indirect tools for Progression through Dev Points (which can allow for more options to gather resources and strength).
Sometimes in a game of DBU, there will be some imbalance of power among your players. Don’t sweat it! It happens. You can’t always have everyone gain power at the same time. If everyone became the Super Saiyan of legend at once, it wouldn’t feel very legendary, would it? There will be times where certain characters in a party may be stronger than others, but as long as you don’t pile onto that and make the strong stronger, you should be able to avoid a terrible power disparity.
Generally, if you find any player who seems to be trailing behind, it may be good to dive into that character’s backstory and direct motivations in the upcoming story. Give them a clear reason to be impassioned, to train hard and, if they play into it, give them rewards to help them catch up. You, the ARC, are in control of how strong each character is and how strong they become. Through one method or another, you can always make them become stronger to fix any imbalances in a party.
Sometimes, with Transformations, there are some interactions that may seem a little odd. As a result, we will use this section to point out anything we think that you, as an ARC, should be aware of. Specifically, what you should change from the RAW (rules as written) system to suit a more narrative element.
Body Change. The Body Change Magical Ability is a can of worms, for sure. The Transformations are retained between the characters themselves, rather than the bodies, and while this generally makes sense… There are some cases in which it’d make more sense for them to remain with the body. Generally speaking, we believe these following Transformations should remain with the body, complete with whatever choices were made as part of that Transformation’s Traits by the original owner of the body: Cybernetic Enhancement, Mutation, Peak Condition, Super Android, Genetic Max, Perfection, Super Namekian, Strongest Form and Omega.
If a Racial Trait gives a Transformation, such as through Saiyan Heritage or Divergent Evolution, the original owner of the body will lose that Transformation, while the one who gained it will gain that Transformation, along with any options chosen by the original owner of the body. Mastery, however, will be retained only by the original owner of the body and if they, therefore, regain access to those Transformations then they will automatically apply their mastery to it.
Any attempt to Body Change with a Fusion should automatically fail.
Possession. When a Neo-Tuffle uses the Possession Maneuver to take over another character, if they would use the Transformation Maneuver to enter a Transformation possessed by that character, then that character will also have entered that Transformation. This is important, as if the Neo-Tuffle is removed from the body while that character is in that Transformation, then while the Neo-Tuffle will lose access to the Transformation and therefore forcefully exit it, the possessed character will still be in that Transformation.
Absorption and Fusion. If a Temporary Fusion becomes an Absorbed Character, the amount of Combat Rounds until their Fusion ends continues to tick down. If it would reach 0, then choose the Fused Character with the higher Cognitive Saving Throw. They become the Absorbed Character for this stack of Absorption, though the other Fused Character is also tied to this stack of Absorption, they just have no mechanical effect on this stack of Absorption. If you would lose that stack of Absorption, both Fused Characters become free simultaneously.
Any Signature Techniques or Magical Abilities gained from the Fusion are retained until this stack of Absorption is lost, even if the Fusion would run out of time.