I’ve tried to go through the Monster Manual and, over the course of the last several campaigns I’ve run, use every monster in it. Some of them are very dumb and will most likely not be used again, but others I’ve grown to love. One such beloved creature is the mysterious Cloaker. They sort of look like giant, flat bats and they live in caves and other underground locales. Unlike a lot of aberrations they are actually quite intelligent (Int 14 and Wis 15) and coupled with their abilities make some of the best sneak attacking monsters out there. Their physical attacks are nothing special (1d6+5) but they can wreak havoc on a party with effective use of their moans and engulf power. The moan can be used in several ways and affects an entire group. It can panic, weaken, and nauseate the opposition depending on which it feels like using. Also, different versions affect both Fort and Will saves so it can target various PC’s with effectiveness. For as great as the moan is, I think that engulf is even better. Cloakers tend to hang out in cave ceilings and then drop down on opponents, engulfing them with their billowy bodies. Once an opponent is engulfed, any damage done to the Cloaker is split between the Cloaker and the engulfed foe. Awesome. There is nothing like a PC having no choice but to injure their comrade to kill the monster. It also makes criticals rather bittersweet. They also have some minor illusion powers that make them even more ideal for setting traps.
I really get a kick out of the Cloaker description in the SRD. It mentions how they are almost impossible to distinguish from a common cloak, even the claws of the creature look like a cloak’s clasp. You know, the type of cloak that is frequently left hanging from the ceiling of a monster filled cave. I guess that Cloakers should starting hanging out in bars on the coat rack.
Adventure Hook: The PC’s have been hired to explore a cave complex on the outskirts of town. Growing deep in the cave is a strange, rare fungus that a wizard needs as a spell component. The wizard passes it off as a simple snatch and grab assignment, though the locals are well aware of the dangerous reputation that the caves have in the area. Rumors have grown over the years as to what exactly is in the caves, though no one seems to have a solid answer. In fact, a group was hired by the same wizard just the previous week to get the fungus and no one has seen them since.
While in the caves the PC’s enter into a large, cavernous room in the complex. Since they have entered into the caves they have periodically heard strange moans, some of which seem to be emanating from the room that they just entered. As they look around the room they see the body of an elf in tattered armor in the center of the chamber. As they near the center of the room the moan is heard again, this time right above them! As they suffer the effects of the horrid noise several large, batlike monsters fall down onto them, attempting to engulf them and extinguish their flames.
This is a pretty simple adventure hook, but there are a couple of things that I like about it. Any adventurers worth their weight in ten foot poles are going to try and find some info on the caves before going in, so through the use of some Gather Information or Knowledge (Local) they can learn about the reputation of the caves (of course there are going to be monsters in it, this is D&D after all) and about the missing adventurers. Whenever PC’s can use skills like that and get some actual information it makes them happy, so I like to make them dig a little and have some interactions rather than just have the local inn keeper freely dole out the information. Plus, if they have some idea of what is inside the cave it sort of makes the scene a bit more tense, rather than just unknown. If they score high successes on their checks they may even be rewarded with some specifics as to the type of creatures or the tactics that they use (“My uncle remembers those caves from when he was a kid…”).
The dead elf on the ground is actually a Silent Image created by one of the cloakers, but by planting the seed of some missing adventurers it makes it seem a bit more plausible that a corpse would just be lying there. Otherwise it just reeks of a trap. Of course, a Knowledge (Dungeoneering) check could identify the moaning and shed some more light on the capabilities of the cloaker, in which case the group will have a heads up on the trap.