In my head-canon, Leomund is a brilliant apprentice to Mordenkainen, saw his magnificent mansion spell and said, “What if we scaled it down and gave young, up-and-coming adventurers the safety they need?” and Leomund’s Tiny Hut was born.
The description of the spell:
A 10-foot-radius immobile dome of force springs into existence around and above you and remains stationary for the duration. The spell ends if you leave its area.
Nine creatures of Medium size or smaller can fit inside the dome with you. The spell fails if its area includes a larger creature or more than nine creatures. Creatures and objects within the dome when you cast this spell can move through it freely. All other creatures and objects are barred from passing through it. Spells and other magical effects can’t extend through the dome or be cast through it. The atmosphere inside the space is comfortable and dry, regardless of the weather outside.
Until the spell ends, you can command the interior to become dimly lit or dark. The dome is opaque from the outside, of any color you choose, but it is transparent from the inside.PHB, page 255
The Thursday night crew needed a rest after a dramatic entrance into Ravenloft from a portal in Sigil. Bugwump magicked up the tiny hut. There was a thread in the DM’s of Curse of Strahd and Ravenloft FB group about it.
First a group of wolves came and sniffed around the edges of the spell’s bubble. Of course the packs of wolves in Barovia are commanded by Strahd. The First Vampire has to be curious about these newcomers but even with curiosity is some boredom. He’s seen this shit before. Strahd has lost count of the number of scrappy adventurers. He’s an accomplished wizard; he knows what this spell is. Shit, he’s probably met Leomund.
Kuru, the Halfling Rogue on watch woke everyone up to let them know about the wolves but then the wolves left. They returned with a villager, who the largest wolf pinned to the ground by his throat. The villager began reciting, “Strahd is the Land and the Land is Strahd!” over and over. Strahd was curious as to what they’d do. The characters jumped out of their bubble of safety and saved the villager. It was a fun fight.
Strahd got the measure of the heroes. He saw the fighter’s vorpal sword in action. He saw how they worked as a team and got the measure of their morality. They will leave safety to save a villager…somewhere Strahd smiles a feral grin.
Strahd is circling the party like a shark. What is the scariest part of a shark movie? Let the players sit in their tiny hut. Yes, it infuriates Strahd that there is a bubble on his land that he can’t Scry. Yes, they are safe but the hut doesn’t last forever. Having that kind of safety for a little while is good for horror.
Ask the players questions about their characters while they sit and wait.
Was there a time when your character felt trapped?
What was a safe place the character can remember?
Tell me about a time when your character’s home was broken into and what happened. Was anything stolen? How did it make the character feel?
Send the players an email before the game asking them to daydream about a short campfire story about what their character’s homeland says about vampires. It isn’t the DM’s job to single-handedly set a scary tone without any help from anyone else; tone (especially horror) has to be done together as a table.
Sit in Leomund’s finite bubble. Compare scars. Tell stories. Moments of safety with doom all around is great horror content.
Strahd is patient. He’ll be waiting in the Mists.