Doctor Ghanek is a tiny, ancient Orc-woman; her skin is a pale green, her remaining eye a bright yellow and burning with a cold fury; she keeps her white hair cut short and her teeth filed sharp. Her body has been significantly altered- her left eye, for example, has been replaced with a red mechanical orb which gives one the unpleasant sensation of being targeted; Her right arm is also mechanical, and significantly stronger than it would be otherwise.
When making public appearances, she will adopt elaborate tribal regalia; when alone, she has much, much less regard for personal appearances, and can often be found in ancient human clothing and an apron covered in unpleasant stains.
Ghanek’s father was a minor Orcish mountain chieftain. After his wife and family were killed in a coup, he fled to the lowlands with his infant daughter, and wandered into a small human village. Their reception was initially violent, with the townsfolk almost storming the barn where the two Orcs had hidden themselves; it was only through the intervention of the abbot of a local monastery that the two were spared and granted a small hut on the monastery grounds.
Over time, curiosity began to mingle with the townsfolk’s resentment and fear of Ghanek and her father, and they were, if not accepted, then at least tolerated. Ghanek’s father made certain that she was taught to read, for he greatly admired the humans’ ability to set their stories and knowledge down on paper, and she had consumed the monastery’s entire library by the time she was twelve, developing a reasonable knowledge of biology, botany, mechanics, medicine, alchemy, and religion.
A year later, though, Ghanek’s life would be forever altered. Forced into human territory by warfare and famine, a tribe of Orcs, perhaps the very one Ghanek and her Father had fled, began to launch attacks on farms around the village. Although the intruders were easily beaten back, the enraged humans stormed the monastery, razing Ghanek’s hut to the ground, killing her father, and nearly beating the abbot to death. Ghanek herself was hidden by the monks, and smuggled out in a wagon destined for the nearest major city.
The traumatized Ghanek fled from the monks and lived on the streets for the next few years; relying on the almost-ritual combat taught her by her father, and on her own innate toughness, Ghanek survived through violence and petty theft, preying on the humans who she blamed for her father’s death. During this time, she would often break into the city’s libraries late at night to read by the light of minor fire-spells she taught herself. She developed an encyclopedic knowledge of medicine, alchemy, and several other sciences at this point, but had no practical experience to speak of. At the age of seventeen, she decided to acquire some.
Ghanek, an orphaned, teenaged, female Orc in a human city, made an unlikely apprentice for anyone. And, indeed, it was only the unscrupulous who were willing to take her in at first- an old, insane necromancer; a quack physician; a greedy alchemist, lured by stolen gold. All were quickly outshone by their new student, and all were found dead, of causes completely unrelated on the surface, several months after taking Ghanek in.
Ghanek was quickly able to establish herself in more reputable circles, if only as a curiosity- an articulate, intelligent, well-read Orc, and one with a certain gift for magic, no less, is a rare find. Although not a student, Ghanek became a familiar sight around the city’s College of Medicine, and in the Alchemists’ quarter, eagerly learning from the physicians and men of science, somehow managing to win them over and hiding her own seething resentment.
Also around this time, Ghanek began her experiments. Vagrants and petty criminals began to disappear, and bodies, hideously twisted and transfigured, would be found several days later. Occasionally, one would be found, still living, with his skin slowly transmuting into copper, or his hands replaced by someone else’s. They inevitably died within several hours- if not of natural causes, then at some unseen hand.
Perhaps rumor of Ghanek’s experiments leaked out; perhaps she merely learned all she could from the city’s physicians, alchemists, and mages; whatever the case, Ghanek soon disappeared, leaving a few strange and inexplicable deaths in her wake: the Dean of the College of Medicine, found comatose, with some strange, clockwork device in place of his heart- he died of starvation several days later; several students who had harassed her, their livers turned into solid lead; and a vagrant, undead and with a system of gears replacing bones and muscles.
Ghanek traveled the world for the next three decades; now settling in a human city to conduct experiments, now studying the great mining engines of the Gnomes and the Dwarves, now returning to her own people, the Orcs, to bring relief for the myriad diseases which plagued them, and to preach a message of hatred towards the humans who forced them from fertile land and slaughtered them like beasts.
Ghanek gradually developed a reputation amongst the Orcs as a prophetess and medicine woman, settling conflicts between tribes, telling of a golden age for Orc-kind and developing a written language for the myriad, chaotic Orc-tongues, even while she pursued her interest in alchemy and, inspired by the gnomes and the dwarves, technology. It was during this period, too, that Ghanek lost, or perhaps merely changed, her left eye and right arm and developed plans for various mechanical marvels- swift horse-golems and vast, steam-driven, moving fortresses; gigantic crossbows large enough to use as siege weapons; many-barreled, repeat-firing cannons; and enchanted armor which could increase an orc-warrior’s considerable strength tenfold.
It was only after these decades of meticulous planning that Ghanek, by then aged sixty and preserving some degree of youthfulness through alchemy, established the Guluk-nur, the great Orcish homeland, in a tract of desolate steppe held by a group of nomadic Orcish tribes. She offered asylum for all Orcish peoples, and a promise of peace and unity and the prosperity the Humans had enjoyed.
And they came. Flocking in from all over the continent, a great, unprecedented migration of Orcs came to the homeland that their medicine-woman promised was a paradise. And, perhaps unexpectedly, she delivered. Tracts of land were tilled by tractor-golems, eking out some grain despite the dry, rocky soil. Trade was established with the Dwarves, and the metal used by armies of Orcish workers to bring Ghanek’s inventions to life; food was imported, Orcish settlements established, and, within twenty years, the Guluk-nur was at least a regional power. Doctor Ghanek had, at last, led her people to prosperity. But there’s still the matter of the humans…
Doctor Ghanek’s left eye is, in reality, a complex instrument combining telescope, microscope, thermometer, magiometer and compass; terribly useful in her career as a physician.
She carries a small flint knife at all times, and is somewhat adept in its use. She has absolute control over her mechanical creations, and is almost never seen without heavily armed Orcish or Golem bodyguards.
Ghanek is a polymath- a genius in politics, magic, and science, and she genuinely does use her talents for the good of her people. She can be psychopathically petty, though, and is perfectly willing to exact painful revenge on her enemies, or to torture innocent people if she or her nation stand to gain. At the same time, she can be pragmatic, and will even be willing to work with her hated humans if it benefits the Orcish people.
In public appearances, speaking to her followers, she will adopt a grandiose, mystic tone; in private, she is quiet, curt, and standoffish. She can, when needs be, become exceptionally charming and reasonable, and is exceptionally good at winning people over. Perhaps the PCs even begin to see things from Ghanek’s point of view…
Orcs will see her either as a great, almost godlike hero for bringing them peace, prosperity, and medicine, or as a traitor who’s abandoning their traditional ways of life. Other races will be much more uneasy about her, regarding her as unpredictable, fickle, and dangerous at best, and as downright psychopathic at worst.
In the somewhat unlikely event that she is encountered in personal combat, Ghanek will attack with mid- to high- level magic and moderate fighting skills; she herself, while ferocious, oughtn’t be terribly formidable to an experienced party- The real danger she presents comes from her creations and followers.
With legions of fanatical Orc followers, dozens of very nasty mechanical creations, and a decent mage herself, Doctor Ghanek ought to make a powerful campaign villain. Alternately, she could be a more-or-less neutral, if dangerous, player in regional politics, looking out for her own nation, or even a humanitarian (Orc-itarian?) hero.
Or perhaps the PCs encounter a younger incarnation of the Doctor, as a minor, eccentric background character- a social reformer, a terrible, hidden villain… or all three.
Ghanek the villain
Perhaps she’s been gathering power, and decides to launch an invasion of the nearby human kingdoms as a prelude to the conquest of an empire, and it’s up to the PCs to stop her, or lead the nations against her…
Perhaps the PCs find themselves accidentally in the Guluk-nur, and are picked up by an Orcish border patrol- can they escape being used in this madwoman’s hideous experiments?
Or perhaps she receives a plea for help from a group of Orcs defeated by the PCs. Can they survive with the forces of the Orcish nation against them?
Trade. Diplomacy. Technology. The PCs have been sent to negotiate with Ghanek, perhaps in the name of a merchant or nation trying to get their hands on her technology, or to re-negotiate her trade agreement with the Dwarves. The PCs had better have something to offer her, though…
Ghanek as an Ally
Ghanek hires out the PCs. Perhaps the Orcs, facing violence from encroaching human settlements, earn the sympathies of the PCs…
Perhaps one of Ghanek’s underlings is plotting a coup against her, and she asks the PCs to deal with him…
Or perhaps, just perhaps, the PCs are Orcs themselves…
While staying in a city, the PCs catch wind of a series of odd disappearances and deaths, and, naturally, launch an investigation. Nobody would suspect the oddly well-mannered girl who acts more like a human than an Orc…
A village near the mountains has been found razed to the ground, with nothing but the Monastery spared. The abbot is new, and doesn’t know anything about it, but perhaps some of the other monks can shed some light on the mystery…
Orc attacks are on the rise in the border provinces. The PCs are commissioned to investigate, and find a mysterious, charismatic medicine woman is behind it all. But can they thwart her plans for an Orcish conquest of the continent? And what if it isn’t the Orcs who are in the wrong?