Cloaker Variants for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition

The cloaker is a cool monster. Basically, it’s a giant, talking manta ray that pretends to be a coat. They’re chaotic neutral, too, which means they kinda just want to do their own thing and be left alone. What really makes them bizarre, I feel, is that they look like bestial predators, have fluff that says they’re bestial predators, yet have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma all in the above average range.

Now, perhaps we can just ignore all that. And say, “Oh, well, they’re aberrants. They’re smart but not normal.” But that seems kind of dumb.

Let’s dig in a little on the history of these flying trenchcoats.

Cloakers in First Edition

From Wikipedia:

In the adventure Secret of the Slavers’ Stockade, a cloaker (or “Tenebra Complexor”) first appears as the guardian of a holding room in which the Slave Lords keep their newly acquired slaves to make them docile. The cloaker clings to a wall, hiding among actual cloaks and blankets, resembling a semi-circular cape with a long mace-like tail, and has two claws at the ends of the “cape”. Numerous round black, button-like eye spots help complete the illusion; when the cloaker conceals its tail and claws it is hard to distinguish it from a real cloak. A cloaker has no head, but in the middle of its belly is a mouth and two red, glowing eyespots; its rear eyespots make it so that a cloaker has no effective rear to attack. This cloaker will allow characters to enter the room and approach within the range of its moaning ability.

The module notes that the cloaker is a “rare and exotic creature that typically lives far underground”, and that “How the slavers managed to obtain the services of this bizarre creature is unknown, but the beast is believed to be intelligent.” As part of this encounter, the module also describes the abilities of a cloaker. A cloaker regularly emits a subsonic moaning, which can cause any of several different effects as the monster pleases by varying the moan’s intensity. The lowest level, which it uses on the slaves appearing in the encounter, causes nervousness and unease and numbs the minds of those who listen for too long. The slaves have been exposed long enough that they will not react to other characters in any way. The second level of intensity causes fear in characters, the third level causes nausea and retching, and the final intensity can cause a single character to be held motionless.

The scenario describes how a cloaker will fly at a character which it has subdued with its moaning, and envelop its victim in its folds, pinning the victim’s arms to his side and biting the victim. Any characters trying to help the victim will be attacked by the cloaker’s tail, and any character harming a cloaker wrapped around a victim is likely to harm the victim as well. A cloaker also has the power to manipulate shadows, and can use them to cover a character’s face or surround itself with shadow to hide; a cloaker can also create images out of shadows, including doubles of itself to misdirect opponents.

A full description of the monster, including game statistics, appears at the back of the module to complete the creature’s depiction. This section notes that a cloaker is chaotic neutral alignment, and describes a cloaker as “a shadow-dwelling, unearthly creature. They are normally only encountered in deep, dark caverns, far beneath the earth. Though they are highly intelligent, their thought processes are alien to most races and usually, only magic-users are able to communicate with them.”

Cloakers in Second Edition

Here’s what the flavor text said about cloakers back in second:

Cloakers are fiendish horrors, related to trappers, that dwell in dark places far beneath the surface of the earth. They generally seek to kill those who enter their lairs, unless they can think up some other, more amusing way to punish interlopers.

When a cloaker is first seen, it is almost impossible to distinguish this monster from a common black cloak. The monster’s back has two rows of black eyespots running down it that look much like buttons, and the two ivory-colored claws on its upper edge can easily be mistaken for bone clasps.

When it unfurls itself and moves to attack, however, its true nature becomes all too obvious. At this point, its white underside is clear and the monster’s face is fully visible. This face, with the glow of its two piercing, red eyes and the needle-like fangs that line its mouth, is a truly horrible sight. At this point, the monster also uncurls the whip-like tail at its trailing edge and begins to swish it back and forth in anticipation.

Alien Thoughts. The thought processes of cloakers are utterly alien to most other life forms. As such, they can only be communicated with by mages who have devoted long hours to training their minds in the arcane discipline necessary to understand these creatures.

Asexual Creatures. It is believed that cloakers are asexual, although no definitive proof of this has ever been found.

Cloaker Variants in Second Edition

In addition to the basic cloakers, there were also other a few cloaker variants in Second Edition.

Cloaker Lord

Cloaker lords are a superior sub-race of the feared subterranean race of cloakers. They look just like large cloakers, appearing either as a black cloak, such as an ogre or small giant might wear – or unfurling to reveal their batlike true form, with ivory-clawed black wings, a flattish body whose white underside is inset with a red-eyed, needle-fanged, horned face, and a lashing, whiplike tail.

Aberrant Minds. Cloaker lords can elude most mind-communication and -influencing psionics and spells because of their strange thought processes (determine what occurs on a case-by-case basis; attackers will have more success, the more practice they have in using such powers against cloaker lords). Cloaker lords hold a natural domination over cloakers and have recently come to rule their lesser brethren, drawing normally-solitary cloakers together into loose raiding bands, and forcing other monsters (such as deep spawn, subdued by moans) into servitude.

Cloaker Propagation. A cloaker lord that reaches a certain age or is near death will find a cloaker and devour it. If the cloaker lord survives 2d4 days longer, it splits apart, giving birth to a cloaker lord and 1d6 cloakers, all “babies” of miniature size. All can moan at birth, but their attacks do only half damage, and they can’t yet control their shadow shifting. Instinct drives them to fly in different directions, to seek prey and master their powers.

Resplendent Cloakers (Ravenloft)

Shunned by many as an ill omen, the resplendent cloaker is a mournful creature that must alleviate the suffering of others in order to survive. This benign symbiont attaches itself to the nape of a host’s neck and feeds by healing his wounds. While this can be a very valuable service, there is a drawback. The resplendent cloaker gives off a dazzling glow that makes it and its host highly visible.

The resplendent cloaker appears to be a large cloak with a scintillating dorsal surface and a bright white underside. Its claws appear to be gold clasps and what passes for a collar of burning, multi-colored jewels serve as the creature’s eyes.

It is thought that resplendent cloakers may communicate with one another by varying the intensity of their glow. Attempts to make direct mental contact with a cloaker require a madness check.

Harbingers of Doom. Because of their attraction to suffering and bloodshed, these creatures are believed to have a prescient awareness of impending misfortune. Consequently, the appearance of a resplendent cloaker is believed to portend ill for the coming days.

Despite their somber significance, some prize these creatures for their symbiotic healing abilities. Others despise them for their tendency to draw attention to a host. More than one host has been murdered by thieves believing they had found an enchanted cloak. A greater number have fallen prey to predatory animals drawn to the resplendent cloaker’s bright glow.

Beneficial Nourishment. The resplendent cloaker is a symbiotic creature that manages to sustain itself by healing the wounds of others. Exactly how it derives nourishment from this action is unknown.

Shadow Cloakers (Ravenloft)

The shadow cloaker is an unusual parasite that is believed to have been spawned on the Demiplane of Shadow. Once it attaches itself to someone, it uses them as a conduit through which it can drain the Constitution of other creatures. If unable to satisfy its hunger in this fashion, it begins to feed directly on the Constitution of its host.

When seen in bright light the shadow cloaker appears to be a black void in the shape of a great cape. Because of its ability to blend naturally into shadows, the cloaker is rarely seen except when it has already attached itself to a host.

It is believed that shadow cloakers are intelligent and may have their own language but every attempt to communicate with them has resulted in failure. Attempts to establish direct mental contact with any form of cloaker often require a madness check.

Rare Monstrosities. What little is known (or assumed) about these solitary creatures has been almost impossible to verify. The first known shadow cloaker returned almost unnoticed with the sole survivor of a party of Dark Delvers exploring a series of underground caverns in Arak. Since then, other creatures of this type have appeared in Ravenloft, seemingly without cause.

Necessary Subsistence. Shadow cloakers are parasites that depend upon a host to employ their energy-draining powers. Without a host to help it feed, the shadow cloaker loses 1 Hit Die per week until it dies.

Undead Cloakers (Ravenloft)

The undead cloaker is a foul and dangerous creature that is believed to be the earthly remains of a resplendent cloaker that has had its life drained away by the living dead. The creature actually imbues its host with the power to drain life energy. If the host fails to do this, the undead cloaker will drain his life energy instead.

The undead cloaker appears to be a large decaying cloak. What might seem to be tattered cloth from a distance is clearly composed of rotting flesh when viewed at closer range.

While it is not known if these creatures can communicate, they are believed to have a dim telepathic ability to direct the actions of a mindless undead host. Direct mental contact with an undead cloaker requires any living being to make a madness check.

Zombie Lords. Undead cloakers are solitary and chaotic creatures who have never been known to cooperate with one another or with other creatures. They are, however, occasionally found attached to zombies they have created. An undead cloaker seems to have the ability to direct the actions of a mindless unlead host that it has destroyed. In these cases. the creature will continue to use the newly-created zombie as a conduit for its life-draining power.

The willful use of an undead cloaker by a host to drain life energy levels is an evil act and requires a powers check.

Dulled Resplendence. As undead creatures, these cloakers have no place in the natural order. If it is true that they were once resplendent cloakers, then their conversion to unlife is somewhat tragic.

Cloakers in Third Edition

Here’s what the third edition Monster Manual had to say about cloakers:

Cloakers are bizarre creatures that lurk in dark places far beneath the surface. They kill intruders without remorse or pause, except to plan cruel amusement.

Cloakers pursue their own mysterious goals. While they are certainly intelligent, their minds work in a way so alien that few if any human beings have ever been able to make meaningful contact with them.

What do we know about cloakers?

Of all the editions, second really seemed to flesh out these bizarre, alien creatures the most.

Shadowfell Origins. It seems that cloakers probably originate from the Shadowfell (dubbed the Demi-plane of Shadow back then). This we can guess from their strong presence in Ravenloft as well as their weakness to light. In a few editions, cloakers had the ability to shift shadows. This has been reskinned to “phantasms” in fifth edition, where it can create duplicates of itself.

Alien Minds. Cloakers don’t think like normal creatures. But what does that mean exactly? Are they just totally random creatures who do things that go against normal instincts? Or are they like the Mi-Go or mind flayers, who are constantly trying to understand other things. It never really says in any of the source material what “alien” psychology is like. Only those well-versed in arcane ideologies can communicate with these oddballs.

Cloaker Lord Parents. While normal cloakers are asexual, dying cloaker lords split into “baby cloakers” as well as new cloaker lords. This seems to be the only notes on how they reproduce. Trouble with this, however, is that if a cloaker lord is killed before it can eat another cloaker, that’s one less cloaker lord in the world.

Parasites. Most cloakers are parasites that feed on the living. Depending on the type of cloaker that it is, the nourishment can vary. Traditional cloakers seem to feed on suffocating their targets. Shadow cloakers suck up life energy. Then there are resplendent cloakers that feed on wounds (which they heal).

How can we put it all together?

Okay, probably got a little long-winded here copying all these text blocks, but hopefully, we can get a better picture of cloakers here.

Personally, I think they make awesome horror movie monsters. Imagine these things, hiding in the dark, looking like a sheet or cloak draped over something, then you see its face. It moans a horrific moan at you and before you know it, it’s wrapping itself around your head.

A well-run cloaker should always be a true horror to behold. Almost makes me want to run them as a Call of Cthulhu haunt, rather than a D&D creature where a group of well-armed PCs with darkvision wouldn’t have any sort of fear from them.

I think the best thing to do with cloakers, for now, is to recreate a few of their variants from Ravenloft.

cloaker-lord

Cloaker Lord

Huge aberration, chaotic neutral


Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 152 (16d12 + 48)

Speed 10 ft., fly 60 ft.


Abilities Str 21 (+5), Dex 15 (+2), Con 16 (+3), Int 17 (+3), Wis 17 (+3), Cha 16 (+3)


Saving Throws Int +7, Wis +7

Skills Stealth +6

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Condition Immunities charmed, frightened

Languages Deep Speech, Undercommon

Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)


Damage Transfer. While attached to a creature, the cloaker takes only half the damage dealt to it (rounded down), and that creature takes the other half.

False Appearance. While the cloaker remains motionless without its underside exposed, it is indistinguishable from a dark leather cloak.

Furtive. The cloaker can take the Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.

Light Sensitivity. While in bright light, the cloaker has disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.


Actions

Multiattack. The cloaker uses its moan. Then, the cloaker makes two attacks: one with its bite and one with its tail.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 15 (3d6 + 5) piercing damage, and if the target is Huge or smaller, the cloaker attaches to it. If the cloaker has advantage against the target, the cloaker attaches to the target’s head, and the target is blinded and unable to breathe while the cloaker is attached. While attached, the cloaker can make this attack only against the target and it has advantage on the attack roll. The cloaker can detach itself by spending 5 feet of its movement. A creature, including the target, can take its action to detach the cloaker by succeeding on a DC 20 Strength check.

Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 15 ft., one creature. Hit: 12 (2d6 + 5) slashing damage.

Moan. Each creature within 90 feet of the cloaker that can hear its moan and that isn’t an aberration must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. If a creature’s saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the cloaker’s moan for the next 24 hours. While a creature is frightened in this way, the cloaker can use its bonus action to continue its moan to affect a frightened creature with additional conditions. The condition the creature is affected by is determined by the number of rounds it has been subjected to the cloaker’s moan beyond the first:

  • Second Round. The cloaker forces a frightened creature to become poisoned until the cloaker stops moaning or the frightened effect ends for it.
  • Third Round. The creature becomes paralyzed as if affected by the hold monster spell until the cloaker stops moaning or the frightened effect ends for it.
  • Fourth Round. The creature is charmed by the cloaker as if affected by the dominate monster spell. This effect lasts for 24 hours and does not require the cloaker to maintain concentration or continue its moan.

Phantasms (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). The cloaker magically creates three illusory duplicates of itself if it isn’t in bright light. The duplicates move with it and mimic its actions, shifting position so as to make it impossible to track which cloaker is the real one. If the cloaker is ever in an area of bright light, the duplicates disappear.

Whenever any creature targets the cloaker with an attack or a harmful spell while a duplicate remains, that creature rolls randomly to determine whether it targets the cloaker or one of the duplicates. A creature is unaffected by this magical effect if it can’t see or if it relies on senses other than sight.

A duplicate has the cloaker’s AC and uses its saving throws. If an attack hits a duplicate, or if a duplicate fails a saving throw against an effect that deals damage, the duplicate disappears.

shadow-cloaker

Shadow Cloaker

Medium aberration, chaotic neutral


Armor Class 14

Hit Points 60 (8d8 + 24)

Speed 10 ft., fly 30 ft.


Abilities Str 6 (-2), Dex 18 (+4), Con 16 (+3), Int 13 (+1), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 14 (+2)


Skills Stealth +8

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Damage Immunities necrotic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons

Languages Deep Speech, Undercommon

Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)


Light Sensitivity. While in bright light, the cloaker has disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Shadow Blend. While in dim light or darkness, the cloaker can use a bonus action to become invisible, along with anything it is wearing or carrying. The invisibility lasts until the cloaker uses a bonus action to end it or until the cloaker attacks, is in bright light, or is incapacitated.


Actions

Multiattack. The cloaker makes two attacks with its tail.

Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 15 ft., one creature. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) necrotic damage.

Shadow Cloak. The cloaker targets one Medium or smaller creature’s shadow within 5 feet of it. The creature must succeed on a DC 12 Charisma check, or the cloaker attaches itself to the creature’s shadow and the creature becomes the cloaker’s host. The cloaker remains attached to the creature’s shadow until the creature dies or the cloaker is exposed to bright light or sunlight. While the cloaker is attached, the cloaker’s host gains the following feature:

  • Shadow Touch. If the host touches a creature or makes a successful unarmed strike attack against a creature, it deals an extra 1d6 necrotic damage plus the host’s Strength or Dexterity modifier (the host’s choice), and the target’s Constitution score is reduced by 1d4. The host’s cloaker regains 1d6 hit points per point of Constitution reduced in this manner. The target dies if this reduces its Constitution to 0. Otherwise, the reduction lasts until the target finishes a short or long rest. If a non-evil humanoid dies from this attack, a new shadow rises from the corpse 24 hours later. Due to a mild anesthesia, neither the host nor the target are immediately aware of the source of this damage.

Constitution Drain. The cloaker targets one creature whose shadow it is attached to. The creature must succeed on a DC 12 Charisma saving throw or its Constitution score is reduced by 1d4. The cloaker regains 1d6 hit points per point of Constitution reduced in this manner. The target dies if this reduces its Constitution to 0. Otherwise, the reduction lasts until the target finishes a short or long rest. If a non-evil humanoid dies from this attack, a new shadow rises from the corpse 24 hours later. Due to a mild anesthesia, the target is not immediately aware of the source of this damage.

resplendent-cloaker

Resplendent Cloaker

Medium aberration, chaotic neutral


Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 36 (8d8)

Speed 10 ft., fly 30 ft.


Abilities Str 13 (+1), Dex 15 (+2), Con 10 (+0), Int 13 (+1), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 14 (+2)


Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Languages Deep Speech, Undercommon

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Damage Transfer. While attached to a creature, the cloaker takes only half the damage dealt to it (rounded down), and that creature takes the other half.

Darkness Hypersensitivity. The cloaker takes 10 necrotic damage when it starts its turn in absolute darkness. When magical darkness is cast upon the cloaker, it takes 20 necrotic damage and is poisoned until the end of its turn. While in darkness, the cloaker has disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Detect Wounds. The cloaker can magically sense the presence of creatures up to 1 mile away that aren’t undead or constructs that don’t have all their hit points. It knows the direction they’re in but not their exact locations.

False Appearance. While the cloaker remains motionless without its underside exposes, it is indistinguishable from a brightly-colored leather cloak.


Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 15 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage, and if the target is Medium or smaller, the cloaker attaches to it. While attached, the creature becomes the cloaker’s host. A creature, including the target, can take its action to detach the cloaker by succeeding on a DC 11 Strength check. If magical darkness is cast upon the cloaker, it automatically detaches itself without any further effects. The cloaker and the cloaker’s host gain the following features:

  • Regeneration. The host and the cloaker both regain 5 hit points at the start of each of its turn. If the host’s cloaker takes cold or necrotic damage, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the host’s turn. The host or the cloaker die only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
  • Resplendent Glow. The creature is immune to invisibility and has disadvantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Engulf. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature the cloaker is attached to. Hit: 15 (1d6 + 2) radiant damage, and if the target is Medium or smaller, the cloaker engulfs the target’s head. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the radiant damage taken, and the cloaker regains hit points equal to half that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0. While engulfed, the target is blinded and unable to breathe while the cloaker is attached. As it engulfs, the cloaker can make this attack only against the target and has advantage on the attack roll. The cloaker can detach itself by spending 5 feet of its movement. A creature, including the target, can take its action to detach the cloaker by succeeding on a DC 12 Strength check. If the cloaker is forcibly removed, the target must make a DC 10 Constitution check. On a failure, the target drops to 0 hit points. On a success, the target takes 10 (3d6) psychic damage. If magical darkness is cast upon the cloaker, it automatically detaches itself without any further effects.

Blinding Flash. The cloaker emits a bright flash in a 15-foot radius sphere centered on itself. Each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution check or become blinded for 1 minute. The creature can repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself with a success.

 

Thanks for reading!

So cloakers are pretty wild, right?

But I think reading between the lines, there’s a pretty cool story here. My guess would be that they have some connection to either the Shadowfell or perhaps even the old positive and negative energy planes.

Next up on my variants list, I’ll be looking at those crazy, petrifying chicken monsters: cockatrices!

For even more information on cloakers, be sure to read Keith Ammann’s analysis of their fighting tactics on his blog.

A lot of the content here was pulled directly from the old manuals or Wikipedia (the first edition piece). Art is by Wizards of the Coast.

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