Magic, Physics and Inside Out Bags of Holding

This week an intrepid adventurer seeks to destroy the very fabric of spacetime:

What happens when one turns a bag of holding inside out? (or how does a DM deal with bizarre uses of magical items?)

– John

This is a great question, and the more specific part (about the Bag) isn’t one with an easy or straightforward answer.  Newer sources say the contents of the Bag of Holding would simply spill out, end of story (but they also claim that non-dimensional space exists).  Other sources don’t cover this occurrence at all.  And beyond your Bag of Holding scenario, there are plenty of other things players can (and will) think of to thwart the written rules and regulations.

Dungeons and Dragons is an amazingly detailed universe with many years of history and writing behind it, but still, many things are left vague.  It would require a huge amount of effort (and staff) to expect the good people at D&D to work out the minute details and game mechanics of every possible alternative use a player might come up with for an item or spell.  So instead, this falls on us, the Dungeon Masters.

Over the course of these blogs, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I value player creativity and ingenuity, and that I dislike DMs that try to avoid having to think outside the box.  The inside-out Bag of Holding question isn’t a new one, and I’ve heard a lot of different responses to it.  Many of these responses were severely lacking in creative thought (i.e. “the bag stops working”, or “you just can’t do it.”)  I will freely admit, that sometimes being a creative DM on the fly is a challenge, but one of the worst things we can do is simply shut a player down with flat out “no.”

Dungeons and Dragons is very similar to Improv, because in many ways it is Improv.  If any of you are familiar with Improv, one of the most important rules is to never, ever, ever shut down your fellow actor/player.  If they offer you an idea, you don’t deny it.  Granted, as a DM, sometimes we do have to say no, but only if it’s important to the overall story.  Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason to ever deny a player.

Even a silly, poorly thought out result is better than denial.  For instance, it’s better to say that when a Bag of Holding is turned inside-out a herd of turtles appear out of a rift in spacetime, rather than saying that nothing happens at all.  At least, in my humble opinion, it’s better.  And my humble opinion is better than your incorrect opinion.

So what really would happen to that Bag of Holding?  This, as I said, isn’t an easily answered question, and is for the most part, my opinion (refer to above sentence about my opinions).  First we need to figure out what the heck a Bag of Holding is.  Most sources say it’s full of non-dimensional space, others call it extra-dimensional, and still others call it a pocket universe.  All of these have different ramifications in my mind.  I immediately discount the pocket universe theory, as the two universes would most likely annihilate each other unless they had all the same physical laws and constants.  They clearly do not have the same laws though, since weight and space operate differently in both.

Non-dimensional space, as far as I can tell, is just complete nonsense, so any source that makes any statement about a Bag of Holding and  non-dimensional space should be discounted. Space is defined by at least one dimension, otherwise all you have is a point.  So the only real possibility is extra-dimensional space.  This seems to make the most sense if we think in terms of String Theory and the Bag of Holding as having the ability to unravel some hidden spacial dimension/s that we don’t normally have access to.

So then, if we have this neat little pocket of a normally hidden dimension (but still a dimension that makes up our actual universe) and then we flip it inside-out, what would happen?  For a Bag of Holding to operate, there has to be some sort of barrier present, which is keeping the extra-dimensional space open, but separate from our normal spacetime.  If we assume the bag itself is the barrier (which makes good sense to me), then flipping it inside-out would render the barrier useless.  That contained hole in extra-dimensional space would be let loose.

At this point, I see a few possibilities:

  • The spacetime hole simply snaps shut and your Bag of Holding disappears back into its own folded dimension.
  • The spacetime hole rips open and propagates itself in our ordinary spacetime, effectively creating a 4th spatial dimension that everything will then exist in without even noticing.
  • The spacetimes hole rips open and propogates itself in our ordinary spacetime, tearing everything apart and rebirthing the universe.
  • Or lastly, an isolated rift in spacetime is created which may have a number of possible effects:
  • Travel into other spatial dimensions
  • Travel through time
  • Travel through your own spatial dimensions
  • Travel through more than one of the above

I think the main point I’m trying to make here (as usual) is to be creative and allow your players to be creative.  Creativity and improvisation make roleplaying fun, exciting and humorous.  Don’t be a stick in the mud with a wet blanket tied to it pooping all over someone’s party.

Yours in spacetime,
The Dungeon Master

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If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to dungeonmastermind@gmail.com, or you can Tweet me a question by hash-tagging me (#askthedm) in your Tweet. And make sure to review the disclaimer.

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15 Responses to Magic, Physics and Inside Out Bags of Holding

  1. When I DM, and some of my players that think they had the unique idea of turning a bag of holding inside out tries to do just that, my answer is quite boring.

    I try to describe it as flamboyantly as I can, but the simple jist is that whatever it is that causes the extreme space and weight distortion inside the bag stays in the same point, the fabric is simply turned inside out. The items are still there, the bag works just the same, it’s just inside out (and possibly pink with flowers). If they try to turn it again, the dimensional rift gets bored and drifts off to be inside the purse of every woman in history (hence the difficulties for men to find anything in them), all the items are lost and they are left with a regular, rather small, pink bag with flower patterns (because without the rift, the inside painting and patterns shine through the bag).

  2. Yet Another Troper says:

    I think Bags of Holding operate on similar principles to TARDISes (TARDII?) in that while their outside is a perfectly normal object, the inside is actually a separate universe (the “pocket universe” discussed above). The physical laws and constants ARE the same, and space and weight DO work like they should, but since the portal at the mouth of the bag is there, like the event horizon of a black hole blocking the effects of the singularity at its core, we only feel the weight of the bag itself. Just my two bits. I’m not a DM (heck, at the moment I’m not even a PC) and I have never actually encountered a Bag of Holding, so I may not be the best source of creative ideas about it, but as I said above, just my two bits.

  3. Andres says:

    A goblin comes out of the bag of holding, punches you in the face and screams “what the hell are you doing?!!!!!!!! Then he jumps back inside.

    That’s what my DM said on a campaign we played long ago.

  4. tuseroni says:

    the way i see the bag of holding is as a portal to another space, the entrance to said space is across the threshold of the bag (that is where the drawstring pulls close, the mouth) this space could exist in another plane, or just a spot on this plane (the key spell to make it is leomonds hidden chest, so the creation of a bag of holding could include the creation of a box somewhere in the world or just some place in the universe) so by that the question of what happens when a bag of holding is turned inside out would be that the bag goes into the portal, into the space where it’s content reside. that part of the bag remains inside itself(or more aptly inside that space) leaving just the portal. pulling the drawstring close effectively destroys the bag(by closing the portal while part of the bag is still inside, severing the bag…assuming that closing the drawstring severs objects not completely placed in the bag, else it leaves the bag fine) leaving the contents in that other space.
    but of course the rulebooks already have a ruling on this one, but there are a billion others (like what happens if you pour a flask of acid on sugar? if it were sulfuric acid you would get an exothermic reaction and a pillar of carbon, other acids…dunno) and of course one based on the ruling from the DMG: what happens if you make a trebuchet from a bag of holding(that is, when the items are expelled from the bag when the bag is turned inside out do they maintain the momentum of the bag or are they considered as being at rest? and if they are considered at rest what happens if you pull one out while on horseback?)
    and my favourite: why havent magic users crashed the economy?

    • Personally, I would much rather Players and DMs be creative when it comes to questions like some of the one’s you’ve posed rather than wait for official rulings. And I think the magic user conundrum is a great one, with lots and lots of great campaign potential. I say if the D&D Universe is inconsistent, create your own Universe.

  5. Pingback: Fun With Wenches: NPCs and Improv | Answers to Life, the Universe and Roleplaying

  6. edenjean says:

    HAHAHA! Incredible. What a special skill to have XD I love it!

  7. edenjean says:

    Wow. Great analysis. Now I really want to convince a fellow PC to turn her bag of holding inside out..Thanks! ^_^
    Really, though, I love seeing string theory and D&D discussed together in the same sentence. Love it!

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