Obfuscating Stupidity: It's hard to tell what ratio of Roshi is a senile pervert to noble genius martial artist, but it's probably not an even split.
The original series features Shen, an ordinary human who manages to get to the top 8 of the World Martial Arts tournament by sheer clumsiness alone. When he squares off against Yamcha, Yamcha mocks his foolishness...only for Shen to suddenly punch Yamcha out of the ring. He is just an ordinary guy, yes…but one that Kami possessed at the time to fight Piccolo.
Obsolete Mentor: Master Roshi, Karin, Kami... Pretty much all the mentor characters, really.
This tends to happen at many tournaments. The third one in Dragon Ball involved the mechanically revived Tao Pi Pi trying to kill off the heroes, Chi Chi and Goku getting engaged after their round of 8 match, Kami coming down and possessing a contestant to get a shot at Piccolo Jr., and a battle between Goku and Piccolo Jr. that, in the end, results in the complete destruction of the entire island that the tournament is held on which, despite the strength of the characters that came through in later tournaments, remains the most destructive tournament battle in the show's history.
It's even commented on in the show, where previous to this World Martial Arts tournaments occurred every three years, but the gaps between the next two were 11 and 7 years respectively.
Old Master: Karin, Shin, Kami, and Roshi. Later on, even Goku himself to Uub.
The Ginyu Force was an elite team of Frieza's most powerful fighters... Who also play Jan-ken-pon to decide who gets to fight, bet on candy bars and hot fudge sundaes, and made ridiculous poses for fun.
"On the Next Episode of..." Catch Phrase: The Japanese version of each anime adaptation has Goku start each episode preview with "Osu! Ora Goku!", roughly "Heya! I'm Goku!", while some episodes in the Funimation dub have Goku say, "Hi, this is Goku! Join me on the next episode of Dragon Ball Z..."
In one of the movies, Vegeta hilariously shouts "Kakarotto Wa Ore No Mono Da!!" when Android 13 is beating his rival to death, and charges in to protect Goku. The context of this sentence is "Kakaroto is MY PREY hands off him", but "Ore No Mono Da" is usually used by jealous ex-boyfriends to say "belongs to me" (a good English translation is "Kakaroto is MINE").
Opposed Mentors: Master Shen and Master Roshi. The former trains brutual fighters for benefit and the later uses training for personal discipline.
Our Gods Are Greater: The Kaio. Interestingly, a lot of the characters are actually stronger than the Kaio, and the highest ranking Kaio has actually already been killed.
Our Werebeasts Are Different: Saiyans transform into giant rampaging monkeys when they see the light of a full moon. Cutting off their tails prevents this, but until they reach a certain age, it will grow back.
Panty Shot: Bulma provides a few of these in early episodes.
Potty Failure: Oolong, Krillin, Trunks and even Bulma pee their pants at different points of the anime. Only Bulma's and Oolong's accidents are present in the manga, and these examples sometimes overlap with Bring My Brown Pants.
Protagonist Power Up Privileges: Goku is always the first to train at a new training ground, then moves on to a new one when the rest of the heroes make it there. He's also the first to reach Super Saiyan.
Punch Parry: Guaranteed to happen at least once in just about any major fight.
Reality Warper: Janemba was said to possess powerful psychokinesis and was able to use this ability to almost overthrow the Kais themselves by turning the Otherworld council into small, jellybean like fragments and allowing all of the previous Big Bads to escape from Hell.
Reincarnation: Dragon Ball loves this trope: Piccolo being the reincarnation of Piccolo Sr. and Uub being the reincarnation of Kid Buu. Interestingly, both of them are good guys, are reincarnations of Big Bads who had epic fights with Son Goku and both had a "rematch" with him in a Tenka'ichi Budokai.
Piccolo Jr. took longer to befriend Goku, because he actually remembered his past life; while never as evil as his previous self, Piccolo Jr. was initially quite ruthless and went through a somewhat prolonged Heel-Face Turn (fueled by two Enemy Mine arcs in a row, and Goku's son as a Morality Pet) after his defeat. He also looks the same as Piccolo Sr. because in addition to being his reincarnation, he's also his clone.
The Renaissance Age of Animation: Made and dubbed during this period (and quite possibly the trope codifier for starting the North American Anime craze of the mid-late 90s). One of the hundreds of Anime spawned during this period and one of the several dozen that caught on in America. You can confidently say that this series is one of the main reasons Anime became popular during the 90s outside of Japan.
The Rival: Dragon Ballruns on this, after which it gets demoted somewhat for Z.
Rival Dojos: Crane School and Turtle School in Dragon Ball.
Road Sign Reversal: Bulma was fleeing from General Blue through an abandoned pirate hideout. She came to an intersection and drew an arrow on the ground in dust to tell Goku which way she went, but Blue got to it first and changed it to point the opposite direction.
Rousseau Was Right: The philosophy that defines the entire franchise; easily missed if all you focus on is the (admittedly awesome) action sequences. The warm heart that drives the story celebrates unconditional kindness and faith in fundamental human decency; proven by the fact that virtually ALL of Goku's friends minus Kurilin, Roshi and Bulma were once selfishly-driven or black-hearted villains who were shown kindness and hence given the chance to earn their humanity.
While not such a villain, Krillin did have a bit of a mean streak at the beginning of training with Master Roshi in Dragon Ball. As part of Goku and Krillin's training, Master Roshi picked up a rock, drew a Turtle symbol on it, and threw it into the Forest for only one of them to find. Krillin manages to get the rock by tricking Goku in allowing him to "examine" the rock.
Even Bulma was initially a vain teenage girl who couldn't see past her own desire to have a perfect boyfriend and was willing to waste the Dragon Balls on getting one to come along.
The Runaways: Androids 17 and 18, starting from when they were human.
Running Gag: In the original Dragon ball Roshi would offer up wonderful mystic objects as rewards for the hero's good deeds- only to be reminded by Turtle that he'd accidentally destroyed them earlier.
A magic carpet that he'd befouled. (Although he substitutes the Nimbus Cloud which is pretty much the same as long as you have a pure heart.)
The Bancho fan that he used as a placemat and threw out when he spilled juice on it.
An immortal phoenix that died after eating tainted bird seed.
Satanic Archetype: Piccolo was also placed in the role of Satan for a while after his introduction. Specifically, the first Piccolo went by the title of "Daimaou" or "Demon Emperor". The better-known second Piccolo, the reincarnation of the original, also initially considered himself the Daimaou, but was never actually as evil as he'd been in his first life and eventually made a full Heel-Face Turn.
Sculpted Physique: No, not the chiseled bodies of the protagonists, but the seemingly carved from rock, steel, or plastic looking villains and aliens... who also had a set of washboard abs.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Piccolo was one of these, sealed into a simple electric rice cooker. Buu was also sealed in a veiny-looking ball so that it would be easier for Bibidi to control him and transport him from place to place.
Sealed Evil In A Six Pack: One movie villain called Hildegarne (or Hirudegarn) was a giant monster split in half and sealed inside two siblings, Tapion and Minosha. The heroes spent a part of the movie fighting the bottom half, until the top half appeared and joined the other half.
Second Super-Identity: Gohan becomes a crime fighting superhero. At first, he just turns into a super saiyan and is referred to as "The Gold Fighter." Later, Bulma builds him a sentai outfight and he adopts the moniker, "The Great Saiyaman."
Self-Duplication: Piccolo had the power to split himself into several copies, which he used as a training technique. His attempt to use it in combat didn't pan out nearly as well.
Sentai: The Ginyu Force is an allusion to these kind of shows.
Sequel Episode: Most of the story's major arcs have few connections to each other but there are a few proper sequels. The 22nd and 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai arcs are sequels to the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai arc, separated from each other by the Red Ribbon Army and Piccolo Daimao arcs. They also got a partial sequel years later at the beginning of the Buu arc. The Red Ribbon arc got a sequel in the form of the Android/Cell arcs while the Piccolo Daimao arc was immediately followed by its sequel.
Goku: Janken Fist, Kamehameha, and in anime-only things like movies and GT, Dragon Fist.
Master Roshi: Kamehameha. He's actually the inventor, it took him fifty years.
Yamcha: Wolf Fang Hurricane Fist, Sokidan.
Tenshinhan: Kikouhou and Taiyoken.
Gohan: Masenko, later Kamehameha.
Gotenks: Super Ghost Kamikaze Attack.
Vegeta: Galick Gun, Big Bang Attack and Final Flash
Single Specimen Species: The Buyon in Muscle Tower back in the early series could resist Goku's Kamehameha unharmed, and no other is ever seen again. Much later on in the series (and curiously also related indirectly to the Red Ribbon army) we get Cell (who does reproduce all by himself, compromising his uniqueness, but that doesn't last long).
Sinister Silhouettes: Ginyu Force is seen as this at one point, and one of the earlier opening sequences has Vegeta and Nappa as silhouetttes doing a Power Walk.
Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness: HIGH. Many examples but notably Frieza annihilating all the Namekians, Dr. Gero succeeding in killing Goku via Perfect Cell, Cell achieved his perfect form and almost destroyed the world and Buu killed almost all of humanitylife itself AND did destroy the Earth plus countless other planets.
Sliding Scale of Villain Threat: Most of the major Dragon Ball enemies are global threats (except the 22nd Tournament, which slid down to a strictly personal threat). Then the threat level started to crank up from the Frieza saga onward, all the way up to threats to all existence in the Buu saga and Dragon Ball GT.
So Last Season: Everything. Attacks, power-ups, warriors, Big Bads, everything. It gets to the point were if something was used last season, you can be sure that it's not going to have any real impact now. In particular, the Spirit Bomb went totally unmentioned after it failed to kill Frieza, so when Vegeta suggested using it against Kid Buu, Goku was visibly shocked at the suggestion.
The most notable subversion of this, however, is likely the Taiyou-ken/Solar Flare. It maintains incredible utility far past its original inception back in Dragon Ball, serving as the only form of effective defense against higher level foes. It's even later used by Cell against the heroes themselves to useful effect.
May be interpreted as a running theme of the series. Which is that there is no ultimate power, invincible warrior, supreme skill, unbeatable technique, etc. No matter how mighty you are or think you are, someone, somewhere, sometime (possibly even you yourself in the future) will either be or become, better. The pinnacle of Bad Ass of each saga is either directly or indirectly turned into a running joke in the next. This includes the Super Saiyan transformation itself, which goes from legendary uber power-up enabled only by appalling cost, to something schoolkids do for fun.
Lampshaded in one of the OVA's. "They are as strong as Frieza you say? Aww, that's boring. But perfect for the kids!" Who are under 10 at this point.
This is especially true for each of Vegeta's finishers, of all things. He used his Galick Gun once against Goku, then never again. He used his Big Bang once against Android #19. Not counting anime filler where he uses it against a Cell Junior and against Goku during their second fight, he uses his Final Flash once against Perfect Cell.
Solid Clouds: Flying Nimbus, which Goku rides around on before he learns to fly on his own, would probably apply.
Subverted with Babidi's Elite Mooks who were defeated so easily by the heroes it even shocked the King of All Cosmos. If anything, they were slightly mightier than the Big Bad of two seasons prior. Even The Dragon was just as strong as last season's Big Bad at full strength. The only reason he did so well is because Gohan, who defeated said Big Bad, had done basically no training and was weaker than he had been before, not to mention holding back for no good reason (Vegeta was supremely annoyed by that).
Subverted in the Red Ribbon Army Saga. After Goku kicks the grenade into Tao Pai Pai's face, he just mows through an entire army, shrugging off a direct hit from a sniper rifle. Staff Officer Black's powered armour is actually less of a challenge than the ruthless assassin Tao.
This is lampshaded in the special Yo! Son Goku and his Friends Return, when two soldiers from Frieza's army who have become even stronger than Frieza show up with the intention of terrorising the Earth. By this point, Goku and Vegeta's youngest sons, neither of whom is older than ten, are more than a match for them.
Played painfully straight with Beers from "Battle of Gods", who not only curb stomps Super Saiyan 3 Goku, but Super Saiyan God state, which canonically is the strongest power up in the series, does not even come close to beating him at all.
The real kicker of this that not only Beers' assistant, Whis is much stronger than even Beers, but since he's the designated God of Destruction of the Dragon Ball universe which is No 7 out of 12, that means that there are eleven other ones that are even stronger than Beers
Spell My Name with an S: The romanizations of many characters' name tend to vary between Japanese media. Even the English adaptation of the manga and anime can't seen to agree on which spelling to use.
Spheroid Dropship: Frieza's Saiyan Pods are of the sufficiently advanced variety that has interstellar capability.
Spinoff Babies: Although its anything but this, the original Dragon Ball was both advertised and came off as this to American viewers due to Z being localized first.
A more straight example may be GT, which turned Goku back into a kid and pushed his granddaughter Pan to the forefront.
Spoiler Title: Pretty much every episode of the English dub of Z had this problem. Particularly bad are when the title of the episode reveals the death of a character.
Spontaneous Weapon Creation: Krillin's signature attack (though many of the other Z-Warriors can do it too) is the Destructo Disk/Kienzan; a concentrated disk of Ki energy thinned to a razor sharp tip. Frieza and Cell also have a remote-controlled variation.
Some characters, Such as Spike the Devil Man and Dabura, can literally create weapons like pitchforks and swords out of thin air using Magic Materialization/Busshitsu Shutsugen Majutsu.
Androids also have this by virtue of being machines.
Stealth-Based Mission: Thoroughly outnumbered by aliens individually stronger than they are, quite a large part of the Frieza arc ends up being this for Krillin and Gohan.
This is averted briefly when they attack Dodoria in front of Frieza and Zarbon. Of course, they're only strong enough to lightly injure him, and it lapses back into this again.
They were seriously lucky Vegeta was providing a handy distraction by killing Frieza's Dragons and Mooks; Gohan and Krillin go almost entirely unnoticed by Frieza until the Ginyu Force arrives. Of course, this meant they had to hide from Vegeta too.
Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Pretty much every child in the main team, but Gohan is the embodiment of the trope. He's a child who, because of who and what he is, is continually put in situations he has no business in.
Three-Point Landing: Almost everybody does this when falling, except when they fall flat to the floor.
True Companions: Goku, Krillin, Bulma, Yamcha, Master Roshi, Ooling, Puar, Turtle, and then any kids any of them might have. Other characters, like Tien, Piccolo and Vegeta, might become something like friends with the rest but aren't usually seen hanging out with the others.
T-Word Euphemism: Lord Pilaf's minions and the English localisers on the "K-word".
Unexpected Character: The videogames are featuring more and more of these, particularly Sparking Meteor / Budokai Tenkaichi 3.
The Unfought: Goku never once directly meets General Red, the commander of Red Ribbon Army, who is later killed by his own sidekick.
Not counting GT, he never gets to fight Android 17 either, due to the heart virus; by the time he's recovered from it, 17's already been absorbed by Cell.
Uniqueness Decay: The titular magical orbs start out as the awesome Holy Grail of all mystical artifacts, then eventually become relegated to fuel for resurrections as the series continues.
Subverted and then immediately played straight when the Dragon is summoned at Capsule Corp. Everybody else in the city freaks out... until they learn it's from Capsule Corp. and assume it's just another experiment, continuing with their lives.
Urban Legend: There's a very oft-repeated one floating around in Hungary, which claims the series got canceled because a kid jumped off a building/out a window, thinking the Nimbus would save him. There is nothing to confirm this, yet many, many fans consider it a fact. In reality, the show was canceled because the TV station that had carried it got into trouble due to the series' timeslot and rating — they handled it as a children's cartoon but the media authorities saw it as strictly meant for adults. It is also known that a 14-year-old named Karcsi threatened the broadcasting company with suicide upon hearing about the cancellation. But the one about a kid jumping to his death is, most likely, a legend.
Villain Pedigree: Goku has already outgrown most human opponents by the end of Dragon Ball. Throughout Z, the bad guys are either demons, alien invaders, genetically engineered killing machines or humans who've been cybernetically amped-up.
When You Snatch the Pebble: Goku goes to Karin's Tower to drink the Super Spirit Water, which he hears will make him much stronger. Actually getting the bottle of water from Karin, however, is a daunting task because of Karin's swiftness (combined with the high altitude). When Goku finally does get the bottle, he is told that it contains just ordinary water—his attempts to take the water were what increased his strength.
Used again in his training with Mr Popo on Kami's lookout where he must snatch a bell from Popo (along with a variety of other challenges)
Wax On, Wax Off: Both this and the above trope come back again during the King Kai arc of Goku's training, where he's told to first catch Bubbles, a monkey, and whack Gregory with a mallet. Sounds simple enough, considering Goku is an alien with super speed. King Kai, however, conveniently forgot to mention that his planet's gravity is 10 times that of Earth, which means even taking a step took tremendous effort on Goku's part, but not for Bubbles or Gregory, who have lived on the planet for so long the latter can fly at subsonic speeds!
First used by Roshi whose training method is to have Goku and Krillin do a 20km milk run (on foot), tend to a gorwing area of farm land (without tools), do construction work, 10 laps across a shark filled lake and dodging hornets for half and hour... while wearing 20kg weights
Wuxia: The anime adaptaton lovingly pays homage to the conventions of the Classic Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu films of the 60's, in lighting, movement, costume design and especially the sublime musical score by Kikuichi Shunsuke.