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?)
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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