The Bag of Holding, the Handy Haversack (which is just three Bags of Holding tied together), and the Efficient Quiver represent what are arguably the most useful and valuable items in Dungeons and Dragons: the magical containers.
Who wore it better? Mary Poppins or Santa Claus? This may be where the idea for a magical bag in Dungeons and Dragons originated, considering both of those stories predate the birth of D&D.
The Bag of Holding was also featured in Harry Potter. When Harry and company went on the run as fugitives from a dystopian magical fascist government, they put all of their belongings in a small coin purse that was magically altered to fit all of their luggage.
It was so spacious inside that Harry had to use a seeking spell just to find an item inside the bag.
Luckily, in Dungeons and Dragons, you simply have to know what you’re looking for to find it… which can lead to all manner of dungeon-masterly mischief, heh.
What Is a Bag of Holding in DnD 5e?
A Bag of Holding is a magical container that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, allowing it to hold a large volume of goods without encumbering the wearer.
Bag of Holding
Wondrous Item, uncommon
This bag has an interior space considerably larger than its outside dimensions, roughly 2 feet in diameter at the mouth and 4 feet deep. The bag can hold up to 500 pounds, not exceeding a volume of 64 cubic feet. The bag weighs 15 pounds, regardless of its contents. Retrieving an item from the bag requires an action.
If the bag is overloaded, pierced, or torn, it ruptures and is destroyed, and its contents are scattered in the Astral Plane. If the bag is turned inside out, its contents spill forth, unharmed, but the bag must be put right before it can be used again. Breathing creatures inside the bag can survive up to a number of minutes equal to 10 divided by the number of creatures (minimum 1 minute) after which time they begin to suffocate.
Placing a Bag of Holding inside an extradimensional space created by a handy haversack, portable hole, or similar item instantly destroys both items and opens a gate to the Astral Plane. The gate originates where one item was placed inside the other. Any creature within 10 feet of the gate is sucked through it to a random location on the Astral Plane. The gate then closes. The gate is one-way only and can’t be reopened.
Notes: Utility, Container
Item Tags: UTILITY CONTAINER
Basic Rules, pg. 153
Variations on the Bag of Holding
There are several items that operate on the same principle or serve a similar function as the Bag of Holding but are a bit more specific.
The Handy Haversack
This container is three small bags of holding tied together. It can hold a total of 12 cubic feet and weighs 5 pounds at all times. It follows all the same rules as a bag of holding.
I am unsure why this item is rare and the Bag of Holding is uncommon considering the Bag of Holding holds much more material. Perhaps it’s more fashionable than the Bag of Holding?
This container is specific to weapons. It has three pockets that can be filled with different sizes of weapons and ammunition. The quiver always weighs 2 pounds.
The shortest compartment can hold up to 60 arrows, bolts, or similar objects. The midsize compartment holds up to 18 javelins or similar objects. The longest compartment holds up to six long objects, such as bows, quarterstaffs, or spears.
A Portable Hole
This container is essentially like digging a hole in the ground to store your stuff, except it is much more clean and efficient. Unlike a Bag of Holding, however, you have to climb down into the hole to get what you have stored in there.
If a creature is stuck in a portable hole that has been closed, it can break free with a DC 10 strength check. Otherwise, it follows all the same rules as a Bag of Holding and weighs next to nothing.
A Player’s Guide to Bags of Holding and Other Extradimensional Containers
At some point in their career, every adventurer should take themselves seriously and get an extra-dimensional container. They are convenient and useful, and they make much more sense than the idea of someone carrying a treasure chest on their back.
What Are They Meant To Do?
These items are meant to help your adventurer hold all of their loot and tools while on a sustained trip. That’s it. That is their one and only purpose.
Now, since Dungeons and Dragons players are resourceful, clever, and generally mischievous smart-asses, the designers knew that in order to keep the Bag of Holding and other magical containers from becoming a huge problem, they should make some boundaries along what types of mischief and alternate uses players can do with these items.
Therefore, all extradimensional items come with these identical instructions:
Common to All Extra-Dimensional Items
Breathing creatures inside the bag can survive up to a number of minutes equal to 10 divided by the number of creatures (minimum 1 minute) after which time they begin to suffocate.
Placing a bag of holding inside an extradimensional space created by a handy haversack, portable hole, or similar item instantly destroys both items and opens a gate to the Astral Plane. The gate originates where one item was placed inside the other. Any creature within 10 feet of the gate is sucked through it to a random location on the Astral Plane. The gate then closes. The gate is one-way only and can’t be reopened.
These instructions open up all sorts of possibilities while placing some boundaries down at the same time.
What Are These Items Not Intended To Do?
Back in the wild west, lawless days of 2nd and 3rd edition, we used to use Bags of Holding and Portable Holes to create miniature black holes that would act as miniature spheres of annihilation. Seriously. You’ve never lived until you killed a Tarrasque at 5th level with this method.
Since then, things have calmed down a bit, and the designers have definitively stated what happens when you mix those two items. It becomes a non-consensual, one-way trip to a random place in the Astral Plane that is both better and worse than a localized black hole.
We also used to take turns sleeping in the black hole while the party member on watch carried it around.
The designers decided this was too powerful and decided there was no air in an extra-dimensional space, and everything in the Bag of Holding entered a stasis.
This was also both better and worse. We would go to a tavern and order a hot catering service. Then we would put all of the food in the Bag of Holding so that we could eat something better than rations while traveling. If everything was in stasis, then the food would stay warm and nutritious, right? Right.
Then someone decided that when we reached low HP, it would be best to jump into the Bag of Holding and that the Wizard would teleport away while carrying the bag so we could heal up and rest, narrowly escaping death.
Now, though, it turns out that breathing creatures suffocate after 10 minutes. Sigh. No more rescuing the princess by shoving her in the bag.
Yet, even after all of the arbitrary rules put in place to stop game-breaking actions, there are still some fun and interesting things you can do with such a tool – but the question is whether or not you should…
What Can I Do With a Bag of Holding That I Probably Shouldn’t Do?
You probably still shouldn’t put one extra-dimensional space inside of another. But if you do, here are two ways to benefit from the resulting vortex…
Do It Intentionally
If, for whatever reason, you need to go to the Astral Plane, this is much cheaper than a plane shift spell. However, you run the risk of being separated from the party and your stuff somewhere in the Astral Sea.
So be prepared! There are spells that will allow you to detect creatures and objects while on the same plane and teleport to their location. You will not have to pack snacks, however, since in the astral plane time does not pass, meaning you won’t get hungry or thirsty.
Definitely pack weapons since the Astral Plane is not necessarily a friendly place.
Do It to an Overwhelming Threat
If you are facing down a terrible threat, you can always use this effect to remove the problem. The risk, of course, is being close enough to get sucked into the Astral Plane as well.
To avoid this, follow these steps.
1. Give a portable hole to the Rogue, the Monk, or anyone benefiting from expeditious retreat.
2. Move next to the threat, and place the portable hole as an action.
3. As a bonus action, dash away from the portable hole.
4. Have another player throw the bag of holding into the portable hole with a well-aimed pitch or the mage hand or catapult spells.
5. Watch the threat spin helplessly in an LSD-fueled vortex of misfortune.
When You Get a Bag of Holding…
…Make sure you know what is in it. Empty it out, preferably while behind a blast shield. You would hate to find out someone stopped a bomb threat by simply putting the bomb in stasis, and know you have to give a Dexterity saving throw.
Also, there could be a murder weapon or a dead body in there. That looks bad on you.
DM’s Guide to Bags of Holding
As a DM, there are few ways to make a Bag of Holding be more than just a cool reward to give to players.
Use the Bag of Holding To Advance the Plot
Maybe there is a plot hook such as a mysterious key, a dead body, an old spell book, or a mysterious key inside the Bag of Holding.
When the players are stuck and can’t solve the puzzle, gently remind them of the reason they managed to get the Bag of Holding in the first place, and maybe they can find the McGuffin.
As a Convenient Way of Providing Them the Means to the Astral Plane
Perhaps your adventure requires them to travel to the astral plane, and they are supposed to spend an entire session trying to figure out how to get there.
Give them two extra-dimensional spaces, and watch them deal with the risks.
Better yet, give them one extra-dimensional space, and see what items they sacrifice in order to make the trip. This way you can separate them as much as you like or put them into whatever situation you need when they get to the astral plane. Like a Githyanki raiding ship, perhaps.
Magical containers are useful even if you give one to the player and then forget about it. However, with a little bit of effort, you can increase the importance of this already game-changing item and give to players the same sense of wonder when they saw Mary Poppins pull out her bag for the first time.