Melee Academy: The Feats of Samson

The Biblical figure of Samson (or “Sampson”) from the Book of Judges (chapters 13 to 16) is an interesting guy. Basically, he’s the Christian version of Heracles (and has interesting ties to that particular mythological figure as well). He did some pretty cool things, things which any PC in any campaign would love to do. But before we get to those, let’s first examine a couple of relevant statistics. Namely, how strong is Samson? (Note: This is sort of off the mark for Melee Academy posts, but fits better there than any of my other blog series. After all, it’s about a big strong guy laying the smack down on his enemies.)

Samson’s Vital (Combat) Statistics
Let’s assume that Samson’s ST is enough to move at least one of the columns of the Temple Dagon (which he destroyed, see below). This gives us around a ST of 0, but the passages relating to Samson specifically say that he wasn’t strong all the time – only when the spirit of God empowered him. As a game designer (and specifically for GURPS) this screams to me “Super ST.” So let’s just assume that Samson’s ST is a flat 21 “all the time” and that his enhanced ST is 160. Since it’s directly stated that Samson’s strength and power comes from YAHWEH, that means we could treat it in one of two ways. The first is to use Super-ST with the Divine Power Modifier and use Samson’s Nazirite vows as its base cost. Such a Vow might look like this in GURPS: Vow (Nazritie) [-10]. Such a vow would require the character to abstain from alcohol, not cut his hair in any way, and to stay away from corpses or graves. So Samson has Super-ST +11 (Divine, -10%) [396]. Alternatively, just treat such “Divine Strength” as a form of Blessed (pp. B40-41) worth 40/level. Of course, if you only need a boost in ST every once and a while, you could just buy Blessed (Heroic Feats) for ST to gain a +4d to ST for the same price which is almost five times as effective.

I’d probably also say that Samson has a high HP, maybe twice his ST – but with the Divine Power Modifier. I know, that seems weird, but when he violates his Vow he is treated as if he were a completely normal man and seems less indestructible. Of course, using that logic you could add any number of “brick” traits (DR, Injury Tolerance, etc.), but lets ignore all that for now and concentrate on his ST score.

With a ST of 21 he’s doing on 2d-1 with a punch, but since the guy slays hundreds of Philistines with his bare hands (and thousands with the jawbone of an ass…) I’d give him Brawling or Boxing (probably both – also Wrestling) at at least DX+5. Along with a DX of 15 or 16, he’s good to go for unarmed combat. Actually, I’d probably give him Claws (Blunt) (Divine, -10%) [3] and four Crushing Strikers (Divine, -10%; Limb, -20%) [4/each] as well, good for another +2/die of damage. So punching someone would be around +4/die (for a Boxing punch) or +3/die or a Brawling punch). So a Boxing punch would be 2d+7 (14 damage average), while a Brawling punch would be 2d+5 (12 damage average). That’s enough to render an average man at 0 HP or less from a single hit.

And that, of course, is ignoring the obvious potential of grappling with such a high ST…a choke to the neck (p. B371) would kill most anything Samson could get his hands on.

Out of the Eater, Something to Eat

As a young man Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman – Timnah – despite the objections of his parents. While on his way to ask for her hand in marriage a lion attacks Samson. Using the stat-block on p. B456 we see that the Lion has a ST of 16. Assuming Samson goes first, he can easily get his hands on the creature, spend 1 FP, and then rip the lion apart. I’d call that a an All-Out Attack (Determined): Wrestling Grab to the Neck (skill 21) followed by a Neck Snap using his enhanced ST level (159). Assuming that both rolled a 10 on the contest, Samson inflicts a whopping 17d+34 (93 damage on average) – that’s enough to put the lion at -5xHP instantly.

Out of the Strong, Something Sweet
After annoying his groomsmen with a riddle (which they end up extorting from his would-be bride) and losing a bet, he goes and kills 30 Ashkelonian Philistine for their garments in a rage. Now, it doesn’t say that these men are fighters of any kind (though Philistines in general seem to be a “warrior” people as presented in the Bible). So how long would it take for Samson to kill 30 men? It depends on if they were in groups or not. Even as angry as he was I don’t see him targeting people in groups of more than five. He may have been the Incredible Hulk of the Old Testament – but he was also pretty smart (but not with women – nope, he had Hulk IQ when it came to women). Since he could inflict 14 crushing (on average with the Boxing skill) per punch it would only take around 4 hits per target to literally beat them to death.

With the Jawbone of an Ass
After taking refuge at the rock of Etam, an army of Philistines finds Samson, takes him prisoner, and tries to escort him back for judgement. Samson, being God’s own little Roid Rager gets angry, finds the jawbone of a donkey (an ass) and then proceeds to just destroy the Philistines with it. I’d call that another form of Blessed. In this case, something like this:
Blessed (Dues ex Arma): Whenever you really need a weapon, you always find one at hand. This can be a an actual weapon you find just when you need it or an improvised one. For the latter, you ignore the penalty to wield it as a weapon as well as the breakage penalties. Additionally, once per game session you gain the benefits of Weapon Master (p. B101) for your found/improvised weapon for one minute or until the end of the current combat you are in (whichever comes in). 10 points.

Designer’s Notes: Rules Exemption (Weapon Breakage) [1] + Shtick (Always has a weapon when needed) [1] + Shtick (Weapons used for this advantage count as holy attacks) [1] + Cosmic Modular Abilities (Divine, -10%; Limited, Improvised Weapons perk only, -80%) [1] + Weapon Master (Only weapons gained from this advantage; Divine, -10%; Limited, 1 use/session, -60%) [6]. The discount on Cosmic Modular Abilities uses the “true value” of the total limitations per GURPS Power Ups 8: Limitations (p. 00), while the larger discount is because at -50% you can purchase Accessory for a near infinite number of objects, since there are only 52 combat skills – and about half of them (at best) are useful for in this instance. 

Bringing Down the House

Despite Samson’s strength he’s undone by the same thing that undoes many men: boasting and/or a woman. After Delilah cuts of his hair, the Philistines gouge out Samson’s eyes, imprison him (he seems as strong as any man after he violates his Nazirite vows), and put him to work turning a millstone. Eventually, the Philistines parade him in front of their temple to their god (Dagon). Samson pleads with YAHWEH for his old strength just one more time….and God responds. Samson then proceeds to topple the temple by shoving the pillars holding the roof up “so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it.” Let’s assume that the pillars have a 4 ft diameter, were 30 ft long, and made of granite – thus each column weighed just under 65,000 pounds (64,732 lbs.) or 32.5 tons each. The Basic Set says you can shove or knock over your Basic Lift x 12 – doubled if you got a running start. That’s almost enough to shift one of the pillars, but lets assume he used Extra Effort to increase his ST and dumped his FP – after all, he’s going to die he’s not going to need it. Another possibility is that he used Power Blow (since that’s something that GURPS Supers says “bricks” can have, I don’t see why Samson couldn’t have it)
Picking Over the Bones
All of the above assumes either “instant” feats of strength and/or Hollywood influences on the story. “Realistic” Samson might have a much lower ST (in the high 30s at most) since the Temple of Dagon might not be as grand as the movies make it out to be. Yet another way to look at the things Samson did would be to use GURPS Powers: Divine Favor and consider each one to be a miracle (or prayer). For example, you could create a learned prayer for boosted Samson’s Strength or Blessed (Dues Ex Arma). You could even say that Samson had nothing to do with toppling the temple, but instead God sent an earthquake…
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