Saturday, October 6, 2012

Monstrous Musings - Cloakers

But, some of you will doubtless be thinking, the cloaker was introduced with AD&D. That is correct. I happen to really like those things. Always have. Maybe it was the illustration...after all, I am a fan of Jeff Dee's work. It could've been the sneaky and entirely contrived nature of the beast that fit in so well with the older flavor of the game. A monster that happens to be able to impersonate a cloak. Perfectly logical evolutionary adaptation, right? This is a magical world, after all. Right? Riiiiiiiiight.

It may be that I just have some kind of macabre soft spot for the aberrations of the D&D game. Possibly a lingering affinity for HP Lovecraft and the Mythos. Gibbering Mouther, anyone? I like to try and get into the minds of these horrible monstrosities. I enjoy coming up with motivations for creatures that should be utterly unfathomable to other intelligent life. Plus, I really love to mess with my players.

The cloakers in my campaign setting are something of a major monstrous race that travel the planes and gather information wherever they roam. They are extremely intelligent but nearly impossible to fathom by other species. Can they speak? Certainly. But, they refuse to cater to the whims and deficiencies of "lesser" species. Anyone wishing to communicate with a cloaker must learn to do so on their terms. Good luck with that.

What is a cloaker in the Shattered Sky setting? Well, they believe themselves to be the living tatters of a godlike being known as Susurrus - the living embodiment of the first sound in Creation. Possibly the first Word. One day, they will all rejoin their divine source and share their accumulated knowledge in a glorious union of body and experience. On that day, they will become the one great deity of the multiverse. In their minds, all cloakers are truly one - but currently separate. It is by these qualities that I define the species in my campaign.

I am also not shy about letting misinformation proliferate about these alien creatures. After all, what human or demihuman is going to manage a firm grasp on the psychology and motivations of a creature with a mind as alien as that of the cloaker? Might as well try to get a handle on beholder opera. No, we shall not be going into that subject in this blog. Suffice to say, the cloaker is not meant to be understood by the average player character. They are an intentional enigma. Not all questions need to be (nor should they be) answered.

Their role in the big picture of my campaign setting has been revealed in part through the years. Are they just living recorders to be subsumed at the end of all things? Of course not. They are also part of a greater conglomerate of aberrations and weirdos - something I call the Koru. Along with such luminaries as the aforementioned gibbering mouther and beholder, cloakers share a common genetic thread with the umber hulk, mind flayer, otyugh, mimic, and more. How or why this may be the case is another story for another entry, but suffice to say there is a plan behind it. A long-running and insidious plan.

So, why a cloak? A few reasons, actually. For the purpose of their planar exploration and intelligence gathering, it is an ideal shape. Cloakers glide with the planar winds and they are shaped to glide. They also absorb sound, energy wavelengths, light, and other wave-based stimuli. For this task, they are shaped a bit like flexible satellite dishes. Also, they have been worn in the past - and continue to be worn in the campaign present. Remember that shared genetic potential with such creatures as the mimic? Yep - the cloaker has the limited ability to alter its own form. One would assume that creatures such as the lurker above and the trapper form part of the cloaker heritage and one would be correct.

You see, I tend to use the given qualities of D&D monsters to establish a place for each in my campaign setting - as opposed to the other way around. Not exclusively, of course...but, often enough. I also tend to create variants of these monsters to suit my vision. Just wait until you run into your first ribbon-shaped cloaker bristling with prongs and barbs like some kind of crazy fluke-worm-arthropod that would not be entirely out of place in a fantasy remake of The Thing.


  1. I would never "steal" from you but I might "borrow" your ecology of the cloaker in some future fiction. Bravo.

  2. Just let me know and give me details. I'll doubtless give you permission, you flatterer, you.