I can't speak to a virtualbox image, but a qemu/kvm qcow2 based image vm can transfer to media and be stuck in a real machine. ! And no, no damage. Things that don't work simply don't work, lots of examples.
Anyway, I keep a bare install from the net CD as a master image. ~600MB for Jessie to ~900MB for bullseye, and have strecth and buster versions too. The are fully equipped with ncurses based utilities and do have xorg facilities. They do not have logon managers or WM's or DE's. They can be used for a quick exploration of something in a vm, or written to an SSD and popped into any appropriate computer. Legacy bios vs uefi boot loaders are a concern, but it's all possible at maybe an advanced level. Digging deep you can change almost anything, on bare metal, virtualized, and most useful mounted on a host for direct manipulation. Full disk luks lvm is really the only fixed option.
I've build lots, all from a single install over 3 years ago. Think of it as 'flashing' instead of 'installing'. All is first arranged in the vm. Get good at it and a first time boot on a new computer is fully configured and error free.
Yes, there are lots of details!