[My apologies for the long delay. The computer with my saved files broke down, and I had to wait until the repairman could transfer the files off it.]
When fighting alongside others, cloakers
will need their accomplices to be either intelligent or trained not to attack
them, as they have no defense against enemies once they attack. The last option
is to wait until their prey is engaged in conflict with another enemy, then
attack the rearmost target, and hope to finish him off before the other fight
Combat rating 10
1 Cloaker (CR 8)
1 Roper (CR 5)
Combat rating 11
1 Cloaker (CR 8)
2 Umber hulks (CR 5)
Combat rating 14
1 Cloaker (CR 8)
2 Driders (CR 6)
1 Oni (CR 7)
Combat rating 16
1 Cloaker (CR 8)
2 Fomorians (CR 8)
1 Mind flayer [arcanist] (CR 8)
How to Use – Combat Encounter 1: Predator (difficulty 9)
Scenario: Cloakers depend of taking their prey by surprise. They are also fairly intelligent.
One way of taking their prey by surprise is to creep along behind them, as suggested here. Another way that they might fight is by taking advantage of the fact that they look like cloaks. (The downside of this is that they don’t get to use their phantasms ability, but the upside is that they can choose the terrain. See below. Also, that it feels a bit fairer to the players. I do have a different scenario with the phantasms ability in it.)
The ideal place for them to set this trap will be a long ledge with a drop on at least one side of it. Perhaps you can put a small, wider area where the cloaker is pretending to be a cloak.
In order to make the scene look real, provide a number of corpses. Ideally, they should be of two different types of creatures, so that it looks like the aftermath of a battle. In addition to the cloak [really cloaker] that the biggest one of them will be wearing, place a few other interesting items on some of the bodies. Maybe even one or two magical items. (Try googling Useless magical items for dungeons and dragons. You’ll find hundreds of ideas.)
A different decoy scene would be a large body fixed to the wall, maybe crucified or something like that. It’s possible that the cloaker fixed it there to use as a decoy, or it’s possible that it was there anyway and the cloaker decided to use it.
If you want the cloaker to lure the players toward the trap, have it beat its tail against the floor or the wall sporadically. Describe it to the players as “You hear a dull thumping coming from…” and give a direction.
Cloaker strategy: After capturing a player, the player will be blinded and if he tries to move there is a chance that he’ll walk into the chasm. If he doesn’t, the cloaker will have weakened sections of the ledge beforehand so that they’ll collapse under him when he walks on them. (Remember, cloakers are probably pretty heavy, and he’s got the cloaker’s weight adding to his weight. In general, you’d think someone captured by a cloaker should be referred to the oft-ignored carrying capacity rules in The Player’s Handbook.)
A third option, especially if he didn’t move, is to have the cloaker on its next turn attack the ground with its tail. The force of the blow will shatter the already weakened ledge, and it will fall away under the PCs feet. (The cloaker could also use an action to trip the player, or push him off the edge, like in the next scenario.)
Once the PC is in the air, there are two options. The cloaker can keep him from falling, using its parachute like flying ability to keep them both in the air. Or, the other option, the cloaker can guide them onto a stone column. The column is probably a decent way down, although you can make it be on a level equal to the players or even higher up, if you would prefer.
(As the player isn’t grappled, the cloaker can only move him with his consent. If the player would like to play chicken, with a monster that doesn’t have any actions left and therefore any opportunity to save him if he resists, I suppose that’s his choice.)
The result of all this is that the player is in a place where the other players are going to have a hard time assisting him. If the cloaker is keeping him in the air, killing the cloaker will result in his downfall [pun intended. Sorry.] If you choose the stone column option, they’re not as badly off, although I suppose you could have him make a DEX save to not lose his balance if and when he takes damage from the other players [because half the damage done to the cloaker is passed on to him.] (I would suggest the DEX save follow the same rules as a concentration save. Equal to half the damage inflicted, minimum DC of 10.)
(Do the other players know that they’re damaging him? He won’t be able to tell them is the cloaker is over his head. You’ll probably have to let him tell them, both because it will lead to bad feelings otherwise and because making a rule that won’t end up being kept isn’t worth it.)
Combat Encounter 2: Guardian (difficulty 10)
Scenario: In the scenario, the players are climbing a cliff in the underdark, and the cloaker is trying to prevent them. The cliff should be 50-100 feet high.
(You’ll have to give the players a reason why they want to climb the cliff. It can be anything from an optional treasure to a must-have quest item. (As this scenario isn’t easy, I’m leery of it being the path to continuing a quest. Even though a quest item isn’t optional, it does allow them to leave the area and try again later.) The cloaker does not need a reason to guard the cliff. Being an aberration, its reasons aren’t going to be comprehensible to the players anyway. This gives license to have it to do anything short of commit suicide, and even that can be debated.)
Cloaker’s strategy: The cloaker will activate its phantasms ability before the battle. Unless the players know about this ability already, they’ll think that they’re under attack from a group of four cloakers.
The cloaker’s strategy is simple. It will spend one turn to swoop in and bite, attaching itself to that player. On its next turn it will use its attack to push him away from the cliff, then it will use its movement to detach and let them drop. Finally, it will use the rest of its movement to retreat backwards as far as possible, until it’s ready to attack again at the beginning of its next turn. (It has to retreat between attacking for the same reason it has to attach itself before pushing the player off the cliff. It doesn’t have the HP to survive without being able to pass damage on to another target.)
(Note: if there’s a different PC within range it might choose to push that one off the cliff instead, especially of the PC it’s attached to is blinded and therefore mostly unable to climb anyway.)
It can also use it moan to frighten the PCs for a turn and stop them from climbing that way. Since it will only last for one turn, keep it for when you want to shake up the fight with something new, or wait until they’re nearly at the top and it’s desperate.
Players’ abilities: Can the players see it when they’re climbing? I would say that if they use investigate as their action, they definitely see it. If they dash to climb faster, they probably don’t see it. Either have them make a perception check with a high DC [or disadvantage], or have them automatically fail. If they don’t have blindsight, they definitely fail. Otherwise, they either succeed or they make a not-very-difficult perception check [DC 10].
The players are going to have a hard time attacking the cloaker, as they need both hands for climbing. I would provide some outcroppings where the players can stand precariously while casting a spell or using a range weapon, as anyhow the players are going to ask about this. The downside of doing so is that it makes them more vulnerable to getting knocked off. When attacked, have them make a DEX save to avoid falling (I’d suggest equal to half the damage received plus five, minimum DC 12).
Endgame: Should they reach the top without killing the cloaker, you have several options available. You can have it give up and fly away; you can have it attach to one of them (by now it knows who is and isn’t able to resist it) and keep biting, thereby giving the players the satisfaction of killing it; you can do that and add other monster[s] to make it a challenging fight; or you can provide a bridge later on and treat it like the first scenario (although without the surprise.)
Should they give up and go away, only to try again later, you might want to have two cloakers be harassing them next time. The logic being that since they’ve had time to prepare, it won’t be as hard for them, so you might as well add the challenge on the monsters’ end. This is particularly the case if they leveled up in the meantime.
I would remind you that with phantasms activated they won’t necessarily realize that the number of their enemy has doubled. This is especially true if one of the cloakers doesn’t start with its phantasms ability activated. (Have the other cloaker use moan when you’re ready to activate phantasms. Either that, or activate it on one of the rounds when the cloakers are away from the combat.)
Puzzle and Combat Encounter: Ally (difficulty 6)
In this encounter, the cloaker is acting to help the players. As the cloaker cannot speak (in a way that humans can understand), and as its thought processes are too alien to communicate easily through mime, its up to the players to interpret its actions as they will.
I would use this as an optional side encounter that they encounter while traveling through the underdark. If you make it mandatory, something that is an essential part of the main quest, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble if they end up not trusting the cloaker (and possibly killing it.)
Like before, you don’t need to give the cloaker a motivation. Cloakers are aberrations, and their reasons for doing stuff are so alien that no human can possibly guess what they’re thinking anyhow. Alternatively, the cloaker is injured or sick, and the treasure at the end is a set of healing potions. The cloaker is leading the PCs there so that it can take one of them.
This encounter consists of a set of three rooms. Each of the rooms is locked, and the players have to activate the triggers to unlock them.
Room 1: This is where the players first meet the cloaker. The players arrive at an archway. The other side is black rock. Before the players have much time to figure out what it is, the cloaker arrives.
The cloaker has phantasms already activated, for self-defense. (And to confuse the players into thinking that there’s four cloakers, because why not.) It swoops down and grapples one of the PCs, then carries him up and places him on a small stone sticking out of the wall near the archway. Because the outcropping is small and high up, and because the walls of underdark caverns are often not smooth, the players would never have noticed it. The stone sticking out is in the shape of a circle, and the bottom is painted black. (Although they won’t be able to see that it’s black. At first it was above their heads, they the PC was/is standing on it. When the cloaker moves to put the PC down, narrate that the creature starts to move down as through the weight of the PC is too much for it, then your feet unexpectedly touch solid rock and a moment later it releases you.)
When someone is standing on the circle the entrance turns insubstantial (but still looks solid.) If the player is still on the circle next turn, the cloaker dives through the portal. It’s up to the players to realize that what the circle did and to decide to go through. If they don’t, this particular adventure ends here.
If the player is no longer on the circle, the cloaker will make a second try to put a player on. If they resist it, especially if they hurt it too badly, it might give up and fly off. This will also end the adventure.
I should mention that the circle is high up. Getting off the circle will be its own challenge for the players to solve.
If they go through, they will find that the portals only need to be unlocked one way. Stepping out does not require stepping on any circle. It’s possible [your choice] that you can even see through it when you’re on the other side. You only see it as blocked from the outside.
Room 2: The other side of the portal is a small tunnel that soon opens onto a ledge running alongside a chasm. On the far side of the ledge, there is another archway, this one colored orange. In one spot partway along the ledge, the wall recedes, creating small alcove with a green archway sticking out of it. The area in front of the alcove is circular, and the floor is colored blue.
As the players come out of the tunnel onto the ledge, the cloaker grapples one of them and carries him over the cliff. Assuming the players don’t interfere, the following turn the cloaker sets that PC down on another ledge on the far side of the chasm. This ledge is a dead end in both directions, but it has a small alcove with a blue archway. As before, the alcove is circular, and the floor is colored green.
The blue and green archways each lead into a small room. Each room is circle shaped with an orange floor, as well as a monster that rushes out as soon as the archway to the room is opened. (I suggest a gorgon (CR 5) for the green archway and a black pudding (CR 4) for the blue archway.) The monsters do not open archways by stepping on the circles.
You will want to decide what level of penalty is occurred if someone falls off the path.
The orange circles inside the rooms are different shades of orange. One is a bright, yellowish orange. The other is a dark, reddish orange. The trick is to have two people, one standing on each circle. That way the colors average out to the orange of the archway.
If the archway is blocked, perhaps by a player standing there or by a piece of rope, it doesn’t close. The players will have to figure that out themselves.
The cloaker won’t think to get the player back from across the chasm. The players will have to find their own solution.
You can have the cloaker use its moan to try and scare away the PCs from standing right in front of the archways. (It’s up to the players as to whether they interpret that move as friendly or not.) A different idea is for there to be a part of the path that’s unstable and will crumble under them, causing them to fall. The cloaker can use its moan to warn them away. If they go there anyway and end up falling, the cloaker can carry them to safety. You can even use that player as the one who gets placed on the opposite ledge.
Room 3: The road continues to a white archway. There is also a white circle near the entrance to the room. Finally, there is also a side road that splits from the main road at the entrance and goes to a gray archway.
Getting to the white archway means dealing with two obstacles. The first is that the road is covered with piles of loose stone, and the piles stretch all the way to a chasm that parallels the road, although unlike in the previous room there is a distance between the chasm and the road. The second obstacle is 1-2 more cloakers, who unlike the first cloaker are hostile to the party.
So long as the players are able to go straight along the path the loose stones aren’t a significant obstacle, although the area is difficult terrain. If a player takes damage, however, he needs to make a DEX save to avoid sliding, and once he slides, he needs a DEX save to climb up again. The cloakers can also attack the ground near the PCs’ feet to cause the ground to start sliding, thereby requiring a DEX save. All DEX saves required also cause any PC within 10 feet to need a DEX save, as rubble sliding in one area causes it to slide in further areas.
The other cloakers also have phantasms activated, and you can describe them to the players as a small swarm of cloakers. The players will be able to distinguish between the cloaker that helped them and the others, but won’t be able to tell the other cloakers apart. (They’ve had a chance to get to know this cloaker, to the extent that they recognize a small marking on its back.)
Like in the second encounter the enemy cloakers will try to knock the players off the path. In this encounter they also have the option of attacking the ground to cause a landslide.
The main goal is to unlock the white archway. The grey archway is a bonus reward if the players manage to figure it out. The solution is to simultaneously activate both the white circle and the black circle from the first room (because white and black make grey.)