Today I want to talk about Leomund’s tiny hut, which for brevity I’ll be calling LTH for the rest of this post. 5e is the first edition in which this spell has shown up highly exploitable, so I’m going to start with some history and end with a spread of solutions. It’s cool if LTH isn’t a problem in your group, but I’ll get to why it is one for other groups.
(Sorry, not hunting through OD&D right now.)
Most of the essential features of LTH are here:
- 3rd level
- 10-ft radius
- Opaque from the outside
- Holds the caster + up to 6 man-sized creatures
- The spell ends if the caster leaves its area
- A duration of 6 turns per level means that it lasts for an 8-hour rest at 8th
- Not to be confused with Leomund’s secure shelter, which makes furniture (not extant in 1e, either),
- But: “In no way will Leomund’s Tiny Hut provide protection from missiles, weapons, spells, and the like.”
The core function of this spell is to sleep in physical comfort, not safety, and to act unseen. It’s interesting that they bother calling it a “sphere of force,” when very little force is clearly involved. It only implicitly hedges out creatures other than the caster and six friends, and only blocks winds up to 50 mph. At this point the spell has uses, but it’s only dubiously worth its spell slot. Does it help you refresh spells in a dangerous area? Not… really? Against wild animals, sure, I guess.
Tinkering-level changes here.
- Duration changes to 4 hours + 1 hr/level, so you’re at 9 hours by the time you can cast this.
- Holds the caster + up to 7 man-sized creatures
- 15-ft diameter rather than 10-ft radius
- Greater resistance to wind force, and very slightly less resistance to hot temperatures
- (Leomund’s secure shelter exists in this edition)
The main difference here is readability. The rest of the changes matter in corner cases, and little else.
- Duration changed to 2 hr/level, so it runs well past 24 hours later in the game
- Holds the caster + up to 9 other creatures
- 20-ft radius
- It’s still only implying that unwelcome creatures would be unable to intrude.
None of these changes make any practical difference in function. The spell is still mostly for insulation and a place you can attack from concealment (but not avoid fireballs or whatever).
For 4e, LTH becomes a ritual, which changes a few significant things. Also, it doesn’t show up until Dragon 405, rather than being in any of the Player’s Handbooks.
- 5-min casting time rather than 3 segments or 1 standard action, making it much harder to potentially use in combat
- Close burst 4: a square made up of all spaces that are 4 or fewer squares from you. Your space is the center of a 9×9 square. This is 4e’s way of saying “20-ft radius,” because circles are squares in 4e. If you don’t get what I mean by that, just… take my word for it, I guess.
- It’s pretty explicit here that the caster has no ability to hedge out unwelcome creatures.
- 8-hour duration
- 100-gp component cost
- Grants total concealment to creatures within (not really a change)
Not impossible to use in combat, but it’s a long way to go and a high cost for what it gets you.
So here we are. Prior to 5e, this has to be one of the least changed spells in the game, because as far as I am aware, no one ever cared about it in the slightest.
- This spell is a ritual.
- 1-min casting time. Not useful once combat has started, but if it’s already up, okay.
- 10-ft radius
- 8-hour duration
- Holds the caster + up to 9 Medium-sized creatures. Have fun leaving your horse to be eaten by… horse-eater monsters, I dunno.
- “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.” They’ve finally made explicit that there is an intention for this spell to hedge enemies out.
- Make sure you catch the and objects in both of those sentences. That is why you can shoot arrows out of LTH.
- “Spells and other magical effects can’t extend through the dome or be cast through it.” The barrier blocks spells going either way.
- There’s no upper or lower limit to the temperature you can survive with this. Sorry, Rime of the Frostmaiden.
It looks so similar, but it’s different in almost every way that matters. Making it a ritual means that bards, Twilight clerics, and wizards can cast it without expending a spell slot; wizards can cast it without expending a spell preparation slot, either. It’s now completely secure against intruders, short of a dispel magic, or a dimension door or other no-look teleport. (Most combat-range teleports require you to be able to see the destination space.) Missile weapons can fire out but not in, the caster’s allies can run out and back in, and there’s so very, very little that enemies can do about it. Taking the environment completely out of the equation in the coldest part of the night or the hottest part of the day is a zero-cost solution to what’s often intended to be a meaningful part of the ongoing challenge.
This spell also eliminates the threat of attack during a long rest for any type of creature that doesn’t have dispel magic or similar, which… may be what the players want, but eliminating that much sense of threat for the one-time cost of scribing the spell into the wizard’s spellbook is pretty obviously too good. I don’t want to attack during long rests all the time, but the possibility of that attack informs where the PCs even try to rest in ways that matter to me, and (in my humble opinion) should matter to you.
My players haven’t been doing this, but only because there have been very few characters to reach 5th level or higher in the bard or wizard classes, and those that did, didn’t go after this spell. It comes up now because, well, the multiclass cleric/wizard just reached 5th in wizard. Like y’do, eventually.
There are a bunch of different possible solutions here.
- Eliminating outgoing missile fire means that emerging from the LTH to make an attack exposes you to opportunity attacks, if nothing else.
- Eliminating re-entry once you’ve left would help, too.
- Rolling back to specifically the 3.5e text for everything except duration and range should work fine.
- Removing the Ritual tag is… okay, but I don’t love it – I want as many spells to be rituals as possible.
- Which brings me to my favored solution for making more spells okay to have as rituals: 4e-style expensive material components. Maybe you have expensive material components only for the ritual casting. That’s enough for some other spells, but this one is still too good when cast with a spell slot.
- Tack on a component cost of 25-50 gp per casting, in the form of a small sphere of crystal. It’s still an incredible spell with that cost (assuming no other changes), but it doesn’t become an obvious “yes always cast this” at that cost. I mean, people talk about not having enough things to spend money on in 5e, right? It should also be a sufficient complication for long-term wilderness travel in Icewind Dale, assuming the DM makes casters specify the number of material components they’re buying before they leave town.
I hope this exploration has been useful, interesting, or both to you.