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Author: Ralph Dula
System: DC Universe
Category: Super Hero
Steel Knight is an adventure for the DC Universe RPG, written for 4-6 Power Level 1 or 2-3 Power Level 2 heroes.
Graphic: Ware House
William Heller is a racist with power, a multimillionaire who desires nothing less than the extermination of all non-white races from the face of the Earth. He once took on the costumed identity of William Hell attempting to incite race riots in Central City, only to be foiled by the Suicide Squad. It took Heller years to recover from his defeat, and once he felt himself prepared he sought revenge on the Squad, being shot for his troubles.
After recovering from his gunshot wound Heller took on a new direction, staying behind the scenes as he attempted to make the white race supreme. One of Heller’s hobbies is to study World War II, using his influence to get still-classified government documents about it. Recently he discovered documents on Colonel Erich von Holtzer, also known as the Blitzkrieg Brain. The Blitzkrieg Brain was the most successful panzer commander in the S.S. who suffered horrible injuries when his tank exploded. His body ruined, his brain was transplanted into a robotic body, in which he continued to fanatically serve the Nazi cause. The file showed that von Holtzer had last been seen shortly after D-Day, left to rust on a French farm after being defeated by the crew of the Haunted Tank.
On a lark Heller hired private investigators to research the Blitzkrieg Brain. He was surprised months later when the detectives showed up at his office with the rusted body of the Iron Major, stolen from the circus it had been displayed at since the 1940s. Heller was even more surprised when tests by his scientists revealed von Holtzer’s brain was still alive in its metal shell, in a state of suspended animation. Two months (and several million dollars) later the Blitzkrieg Brain was alive again, ready to serve the man who had brought him back to life.
Enter Your Heroes
Read the following to your players:
“You have been contacted by Detective Carl McClellan, an NYPD detective. He’s asked for you to come to New York City, for reasons he will only say ‘demand the assistance of superhumans.’” After making appropriate excuses in your personal lives you made your way to New York to meet with Detective McClellan. Arriving at McClellan’s stationhouse, all eyes focus upon you, costumed characters not something normally seen at the precient house. After the initial shock wears off the desk sergeant directs you to McClellan’s office, explaining that both he and the police commissioner are waiting for you.”
McClellan and the commissioner are friendly, if cold, as they introduce themselves to the heroes and thank them for coming. The detective proceeds to hand out photos, depicting scenes of horrible violence; in each picture the room photographed looks as though a tornado went through it, with horribly damaged bodies strewn all about. As the heroes look the pictures over McClellan speaks.
“These pictures are from four different crime scenes,” intones McClellan. “Over the past six weeks four small-time drug operations have been shut down by an individual calling himself the Steel Knight. As you can see by the pictures he’s quite brutal, and so far no one has survived a visit from him. At every crime scene we’ve found a note reading ‘A clean nation,’ signed ‘Steel Knight.’”
The detective holds up an evidence bag, its contents a dozen flattened bullets. “We’ve found several hundred rounds of all calibers at each crime scene, and those we didn’t pull out of a wall were found sitting on the floor looking like this. Forensics tests turned up no blood or skin on the rounds, but they did find traces of clothing fibers that date as being at least fifty years old. Between that and the corner saying the wounds on the murder victims were inflicted by someone of superhuman strength we felt it was time to call in some super-types.”
Now the commissioner speaks. “Another reason we’ve asked for your assistance is that there might be some on the police force who don’t want this Steel Knight to be caught. There’s always going to be idiots who think it’s alright to murder criminals, saving the taxpayers the cost of a trial, and I’m sure a few of them are on the police force. I’m afraid evidence might already have been destroyed by sympathizers to the Knight’s actions. That’s why we’ve asked outsiders like you for help.”
There’s several ways for the heroes to begin their investigation. They could read over police reports on the Steel Knight’s activity, check the crime scenes, or interrogate members of the shadier side of society for information. Each option is described below.
Reading over the reports on the Knight’s crimes takes several hours and criminology rolls from the heroes, with their successes compared to the following chart.
0-2 Successes All avenues of escape are always blocked by the Steel Knight before he attacks, with cars being crushed and doors wedged shut. In each incident neighbors reported knowing nothing of the attacks, being used to minding their own businesses.
3 Successes Judging by the number of flattened bullets found at each crime scene, the Steel Knight is either quite confident of his resistance to bullets, intimidating his victims by shrugging off their attacks, or is a slow mover.
4 Successes Several of the Knight’s victims were mutilated after death, suggesting their assailant had some sort of personal vendetta or grudge against them.
5+Successes The hero realizes that all of the victims are African- American, Hispanic, or other non-Caucasians.
Investigating the Crime Scenes
No matter what crime scene the heroes visit they find nearly identical layouts, with each having a laboratory, storage area for processed drugs, and a dank lounge for customers to get high in. With a Difficult search roll a hero will find an odd metal badge, apparently broken in half by a bullet. Testing the metal in a lab (no roll required) reveals that it’s not a reproduction, being over 50 years old. A Difficult scholar roll identifies it as a unit ID badge from the German Panzer Corps.
As the heroes leave the crime scene an Easy search roll lets them notice they are being watched. A man in his early twenties stands at the far end of the street, pure hate in his eyes as he stares at the heroes. Attempts to casually talk with the man earn talkative heroes a spit in the face and a stream of obscenities. Use of the intimidation skill requires a Very Difficult total, and results in the man dropping a vial of crack as he backs away from your heroes, who now have enough evidence to make a citizen’s arrest. Under no circumstances will the man name his supplier, fearing him more than the heroes. Once taken into custody the police can tell the heroes the man’s name is James Lyon, and that he has been arrested several times in the past for hate crimes. Among his possessions is a membership card for a group called the Aryan Empire, with an address located in Hell’s Kitchen upon it.
Dealing with the Underworld
Heroes may decide to subtly infiltrate the city’s criminal element or bust heads until someone talks. Let your heroes make whatever skill rolls they wish, the results being unimportant. The presence of new heroes in the city has attracted the attention of the leaders of the city’s criminal elements, who alerted their underlings to steer the heroes to one of their number. Read the following to the players:
Your hours of legwork have paid off, gaining you a meeting with Anthony Pagnanelli, an apparent big wheel in the city’s criminal element. He meets you in, of all places, a Chinese restaurant, his bodyguards ushering out all the customers so you might meet in private.
“I’m glad to see someone has decided to investigate the Steel Knight,” purrs Pagnanelli. “He’s been causing problems for myself and my . . . competitors, and we fear the police are not doing enough to track down this killer. We’ve uncovered quite a bit about him, and despite our best efforts to share this information with the police they will not listen.
“For one thing, we have an idea of who the Steel Knight is, or at least who is backing him. About a month before the Steel Knight first appeared my competitors and I were visited by a representative from a group calling itself the Aryan Empire. They’re a white supremacist group who just moved into town from Central City. At any rate, they tell us that unless we remove the non-white members of our organizations there could be trouble for us in the future. Needless to say we didn’t believe them, and taught their representatives who ran the show around here.
“A week after the last representative visited the murders began. Every time this Steel Knight attacks he goes after the holdings of one of us who was visited by the Aryan Empire, and he always attacks drug labs staffed entirely by non-whites, ignoring more vulnerable places we control that employ whites. What the police have failed to notice is that immediately after each of the Steel Knight attacks members of the Aryan Empire move in to replace the killed dealers. We’ve sent men to deal with the Empire’s boys, but each time we do they get sent back to us in garbage bags, looking just as bad as the men in our labs do.
“Now I said before we think we know who the Steel Knight is, thanks to some investigations in Central City. They Aryan Empire was created by multimillionaire William Heller, and shortly after he created the group he kidnaped a small-time hero named William Hell and impersonated him. He preached racist propaganda and nearly incited a race riot before the real William Hell escaped and defeated him. Heller disappeared after that, but we’ve heard rumors he got involved in some sort of international incident and crossed paths with Batman. (Note: While this is not a correct account of what occurred, as depicted in the comics listed at the end of this scenario, it is all that Pagnanelli knows of what has transpired) I could see him putting on a suit of armor or getting himself altered to give himself powers and carry on his crusade.”
Pagnanelli hands a piece of paper to you. “This is the address of the Aryan Empire’s office. I suggest you deal with this matter quickly, as my colleagues have been talking of hiring metahumans to handle the situation. I shudder to think what might happen to innocents caught in the crossfire between Heller and any hired guns we might bring to town.”
The address is in Hell’s Kitchen, and should be the heroes’ next destination, as Pagnanelli has nothing useful to say.
The Aryan Empire
Located in one of the more destitute portions of Hell’s Kitchen, the Aryan Empire’s building is in surprisingly good condition when compared to the buildings surrounding it. Open 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., the four people who run the office on a daily basis know nothing of the Steel Knight or the Empire’s drug sales, though all are avowed racists. Visiting the office during business hours gets heroes nothing but pamphlets and other propaganda. Currently the Empire does not organize social events for its members, merely giving those who sign up membership cards and notifying them by mail when racist demonstrations are organized by other hate groups; this will change when (if) the Empire has increased its ranks and gotten more of a foothold in NYC’s organized crime.
Heroes will no doubt break into the office after nightfall, an act which will require an Easy security roll; failure results in an alarm going off and the police being summoned. A search of the front office reveals nothing more than a membership list for the group. There is a second office in the back of the building, with locks far more sophisticated than those found in the rest of the building. A Difficult security roll is necessary to enter the office, with failure resulting in an explosive result, as a shaped explosive charge detonates in the door, inflicting damage equivalent to a fragmentation grenade, as described on page 95 of the rulebook. Since it is a shaped charge, the contents of the office will be unaffected by the explosion.
The second office is used by James Messier, the man Heller has put in charge of the Aryan Empire, during his monthly visits to oversee the Empire’s activities. Checking the filing cabinets in the room uncovers several items of interest, provided the heroes make an Easy research roll. First, the cabinets contain a deed of ownership for a warehouse in Brooklyn, though there is no mention of what the Empire uses it for. There are also financial records for the Empire’s NYC branch. While William Heller is the primary donor to the Empire, in recent weeks Heller’s funding to the Empire has dropped by the exact same amount that anonymous donations have increased. Finally, the heroes find a membership list, containing a dozen names, James Lyon among them, that were not on the list found in the front office. All of the additional names are marked as being part of an “Inner Circle,” and a note says all evidence of their membership should be removed from regular files, “for purpose of deniability if things go sour.”
There is also a computer in the office, which requires a Difficult computer op roll to access without the appropriate passwords. Success with the skill roll allows access to Messier’s files on the Empire, which show that the Empire is engaged in unusual activities. Large amounts of money have been funneled into the Brooklyn warehouse, for something titled Self-Sufficiency. Money has also been spent to train the men of the Inner Circle in firearm usage and hand-to-hand combat, with an even greater sum spent to acquire the services of several botanists, again for the Self-Sufficiency project. Most importantly, there is a single saved e-mail, addressed to Messier from William Heller. It contains a phone number along with a note, informing Messier to call the number if the Steel Knight is not at the warehouse. “I’ve given him the use of my mansion,” explains Heller, “to wander about my collection and remember what was.”
At this point the heroes may go to the warehouse, or look up the phone number Messier has, finding it to be a private residence of William Heller in upstate New York.
As they approach the warehouse the heroes can see it is well-guarded, a half-dozen thugs carrying poorly-concealed pistols loitering about it. They are spaced around the perimeter of the warehouse in such a manner that they are out of sight of one another, meaning that if they can take out each individual quietly his fellow guards will be unaware of the heroes’ presence. If the heroes fail to be stealthy not only will the exterior guards become aware of them, but those inside the warehouse will come out to fight as well. Note that if not arrested earlier James Lyon will be here.
Warehouse Guards: All stats 2D except: Brawling 4D, marksmanship 5D, intimidation 5D, willpower 4D. Speed 30. PDV: 1. Unarmed BDV: 2D. Physique/lifting bonus: +1. Character Points: 2. Body Points: 18. Equipment: .44 Magnum (BDV 5Dx3)
Assuming the heroes actions did not bring them outside the remaining guards are busy in the warehouse loading heroin from the upstairs lab into the truck (refer to the warehouse map). Once they have been dealt with the heroes may explore the warehouse freely.
If interrogated the guards reveal they are the men deleted from the Aryan Empire’s standard membership roster, having been elevated to the elite Inner Circle by Messier after he deemed them truly loyal. Messier ordered them to guard the warehouse and assist in the sale and shipment of the drugs produced in the warehouse, having been told by Messier that profits from the drug sales were being used “to further the prosperity of the white race.” None know about the Steel Knight, though all are aware of the lumbering figure that is always covered head-to-toe when it comes out of its upstairs quarters. The mysterious man is in charge of the warehouse when Messer is not present, and currently neither man is at the warehouse.
Hydroponics Lab: This area is devoted to growing the poppies and other plants the Aryan Empire needs to produce the drugs it sells. A Moderate science roll allows a hero to notice the plants are mutated in ways he has never seen or heard of before.
Office: It will take three hours and both a Difficult research roll and Difficult computer ops roll to gather and sort all the information to be found on the office’s computer and hardcopy files, after which they will have a total understanding of project Self-Sufficiency and the Steel Knight’s roll in it.
The goal of Self-Sufficiency was to make the Aryan Empire financially self-sufficient from Heller, so he can distance himself from the Empire; while he fully supports and believes in the Empire, previous experiences have taught him that whenever his connections to extremist groups are publicly revealed he suffers both financially and socially. In order to achieve this financial independence Heller contacted several leading botanists and bio-engineers, contracting them to produce varieties of the plants used in illicit narcotics that were not only faster-growing, but more addictive.
Even as the scientists perfected their creations Heller used his money to bribe several members of New York City’s crime families, learning their inner workings, organization, and areas of influence. After offering the crime families a chance to ally with the Empire and being rejected the New-Nazis began their plan, destroying the underworld’s drug labs and dealers, replacing them with salesmen hawking the Empire’s enhanced drugs. The altered drugs are fifty percent more addictive than the standard variety of the narcotics, with addicts only able to satisfy their cravings with the altered drugs, insuring a steady clinetle.
To insure their plan’s success Heller has sent someone named von Holtzer to deal with the established drug kingpins. Apparently von Holtzer is a metahuman, as Heller notes he is more than capable of both clearing the way for the Empire’s drug sales and dealing with any retaliatory attack. The Steel Knight persona was created as an anti-hero that the Empire could later use to gain recruits; “the man who cleaned up our city,” as one potential slogan goes.
Steel Knight’s Room: Heroes will no doubt be puzzled by this room, as it contains encyclopedias, history books, and other tomes of knowledge, all covering the time from 1944 (when von Holtzer was rendered inoperable) to the present day; the books are evenly divided between the English and German language. No bed, refrigerator, or other amenities are in this room, save for a writing desk, atop of which are several journals. Chronicled in the journals (in German) are the Steel Knight’s murderous activities, his racist feelings, and his thankfulness to Heller from reviving him and allowing him to serve “The Cause” again. There is also a set of directions, in English, leading to Heller’s mansion.
Drug Lab: Heroes who make an Easy perception total as they approach the door to this room hear several people moving about in it, cursing at one another to remain silent. The first hero entering the room is attacked by a knife-wielding man in a lab coat (Meele Weapons 2D, Body Points 12, PDV 1, Knife Damage Value 2D). Once he is subdued the other four men in the room drop their makeshift weapons and surrender to the heroes. They quickly explain their presence, informing the heroes they are some of the best botanists in the world, and months ago they and several other scientists were hired by James Messier to produce more addictive strains of common narcotics. After completing their assignments they accepted Messier’s second offer to personally oversee the use of the mutated plants and conversion into drugs, in return for healthy paychecks, which is what they do in this lab. These men do not believe in the Aryan Empire’s cause, only in the steady income and lavish uptown apartments Messier gives them. They inform the heroes that Messier runs the operation, though a Mr. von Holtzer keeps watch over the warehouse. Always clad head-to-toe in clothing, the only information the scientists can provide about his appearance is that his hands are metal prosthetics, which they saw after a time he forgot to wear gloves. They can give the heroes the number they have to contact von Holtzer, which is the number to Heller’s mansion. They didn’t have a chance to call when the heroes entered the warehouse, fear preventing them from leaving the lab.
The heroes can certainly call the police at this point, the drug making equipment in this room and processed heroin downstairs more than enough evidence for the police to arrest all present. This frees up the heroes to go to the mansion and deal with the mysterious von Holtzer.
Heller’s mansion is an elegant two-story building, located on ten acres of walled-in land
in Westchester County. A small house separate from the mansion houses the dozen security guards who Heller employs to protect his property. A half-dozen are split between patrolling the grounds and guarding the front gate at any time, with the rest resting in the guardhouse. They never enter the main house under any circumstances, having been ordered by Heller guest von Holtzer not to do so. Like the warehouse guards, these men have always seen von Holtzer fully covered in clothing. They can inform the heroes he is currently present, keeping to himself in the mansion as usual.
Mansion Guards: All Stats 2D except: Brawling 4D, marksmanship 4D, running 3D, search 4D. Speed 30. PDV: 1. Unarmed BDV 3D. Physique/Lifting Bonus +1. Character Points: 5. Body Point: 17. Equipment: .45 automatic (BDV 5Dx3, ammo 7), light leather uniform (Armor Value 6).
Von Holtzer is wandering the mansion when the heroes arrive. If alerted to the heroes’ presence by the guards (or if the heroes fail to deal with the guards in a quiet manner) the Blitzkrieg Brain will ambush the heroes when they enter the mansion, conducting a room to room battle using each room’s features to their full extent; while never having encountered superhumans before, Heller is enough of a tactician to know not to leap headlong into a fight with superheroes. He will attempt to lure them into chasing him, wearing them down until he feels them weak enough for him to deal with decisively. He may even make it appear as though he has fled the mansion, taking the opportunity to disable the heroes’ transportation and sever the phone lines, allowing him to deal with the interlopers without worrying about them getting reinforcements.
Colonel von Holtzer, the Blitzkrieg Brain. All stats 2D except: Brawling 9D, driving 4D (tanks +5D), sneak 7D Coordination 3D marksmanship 4D (+5D cannons), thrown weapons 4D Physique 5D (8D) resistance 8D (11D), languages 3D, navigation 4D, search 4D, Presence 4D, command 7D, intimidation 9D, willpower 8D. Disadvantages: Fanatic (Nazi), Hides Emotions, Psychological Disorder (Sadist), Unattractive Appearance. Speed: 30. PDV: 1. Unarmed BDV: 5D. Physique/Lifting Bonus: +4. Villain Points: 3. Character Points: 18. Body Points: 52. Powers: Immunity 10D, Longevity 1D, Natural Armor 4D, Superattribute: Physique 3D, Supersenses (sight) 2D, Sustenance 10D. Vulnerability: Electricity (Instant, Unconscious and 1 point of damage per round)
The Library: Massive bookcases line the walls of this room, containing thousands of books covering economics, world history, and literature. Upon a reading desk in the room is a volume covering the greatest tank commanders of Nazi Germany; in the margins of it von Holtzer has written his own, unflattering comments on many of those profiled. Each bookcase weighs around 800 pounds, and if toppled over those underneath suffer 7D of damage; a Very Difficult dodge or acrobatics roll allows a hero to escape injury.
Dining Room: An immense wooden table, decorated with an ornate tablecloth and monogrammed silverware, dominates this room. Along the walls hang hunting rifles and painting depicting hunters standing triumphant over their prey. When von Holtzer’s plan for this room is to take one of the rifles off of the wall and use it to shoot the chain holding the crystal chandelier that lights the room. When it crashes to the ground it will inflict 6D to the heroes from the shards of crystal it sends flying through the air. Von Holtzer plans to stand in one of the room’s doorways while firing, using it to shield him from the shards and increasing the difficulty to hit him by 4, as per the Cover rules on pages 195-196 of the rulebook. Once the chandelier is down von Holtzer will fire the gun’s remaining ammo at the heroes (4Dx4) before retreating.
Kitchen & Larder: The only exceptional bit about this area is the layer of dust which coats everything; since von Holtzer does not need to eat he has not entered this portion of the house since he began staying here. If von Holtzer is being overwhelmed by the heroes he may vent the gas the kitchen ovens run on into the room and lure the heroes in, throwing in a lit match to thin their ranks; such an explosion would do 13D damage, and quickly consume the house and all evidence within it. If the heroes are having too easy a time dealing with von Holtzer the Narrator should have the kitchen explode, as it will force the heroes to split their numbers between stopping the cyborg and extinguishing the fire.
Training Area: When the heroes enter this former ballroom they will no doubt be surprised by its contents, as the vast room has been turned into a training room for a variety of combat methods by Heller. The western half of the room is a shooting range, with lifesize cardboard targets of Deadshot, Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, Count Vertigo, and other former members of the Suicide Squad. Scattered throughout the room on tables are an assortment of (loaded) firearms and meele weapons, all ready to be used and with small comment cards from Heller underneath each of them on their effectiveness. On the eastern side of the room is a large wrestling mat. Heller likes to keep himself at peak form in all forms of fighting, even though he now relies on minions to carry out his plans. If possible von Holtzer will come here before engaging the heroes in combat, outfitting himself with a .45 automatic and several extra magazines; while confident of the powers his robot body gives him, an encounter with the Haunted Tank in World War II has taught him the benefit of using ranged weapons against unknown opponents.
Display Room: If the heroes were surprised when they entered the training room, they are undoubtedly disgusted by the contents of this room. It is here that Heller keeps a small portion of his massive collection of Nazi artifacts, with “small” meaning at least a thousand items dedicated to Hitler’s mad regime. Uniforms, banners, propaganda posters, all this and more fill this room, which von Holtzer spends much of his free time in, reminiscing about the past. Von Holtzer will become enraged if any hero begins destroying the contents of this room, and will forget about any strategy more complicated than attacking the offending hero and killing him.
Heller’s Bedroom: Despite being the bedroom of the mansion’s owner, these quarters are spartan, the only items of note a collection of trophies Heller won as a team, a sign of his desire to always be number one.
Von Holtzer’s Quarters: The quarters of the Blitzkrieg Brain are filled with piles of books and papers marked “Property of the United States Army,” along with a computer connected to a flatbed scanner. Not quite fluent in the English language, von Holtzer has been scanning the documents he wishes to read into the computer and using a program to translate them into German. Going through the Army papers reveals they consist of assignment papers for US Army personnel from 1944 on, while the books all cover the tank corps in World War II. Checking the computer reveals von Holtzer is attempting to trace the whereabouts of the crew of the Haunted Tank. Von Holtzer seeks revenge on those who last bested him in WWII, and has had Heller obtain anything which might point to what happened to them after the war, so he might track down any who still live and kill them.
Also in the room is a journal kept by von Holtzer, much like the one found in his room at the warehouse. This one fully details von Holtzer’s origins, along with Heller’s rescue of him.
With von Holtzer subdued and evidence collected from both the warehouse and mansion, it may seem easy to prove Heller’s involvement and have him convicted of his crimes. Sadly, Heller has both covered his tracks and employs enough skilled lawyers to keep himself out of jail. The man in charge of the Aryan Empire in NYC, James Messier, is set up as a patsy, with “evidence” being produced showing him to be entirely responsible for the Steel Knight, Self-Sufficiency, and the illegal possession of the classified Army documents found in the mansion.
Despite Heller’s escape of prosecution, the heroes actions have been quite beneficial. The Steel Knight’s murderous spree has been halted, with the killer having been taken into custody by the DEO. The Aryan Empire closes its NYC office, public outcry against them too strong for them to stay. The drug trade in NYC will be slowed for a few weeks, as the crime families try to return to normal now that the Empire is gone. It may not be a decisive victory, but the heroes can rest assured they have done the world some good.
Simply completing the adventure earns each hero 2 Character Points. Turning over the evidence involving the Steel Knight’s crimes and the Self-Sufficiency project earns the heroes another two points, along with a Hero Point, with an additional point for recovering the Army documents. Narrators should reward individual Character Point rewards based on their players’ role-playing and teamwork, as outlined in the rulebook.
William James Heller: Suicide Squad #’s 4, 40-43
Colonel Erich von Holtzer: GI Combat #’s 194, 198, and 276