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I've always accepted that you could place a portable hole on any flat surface, but I've never really thought about it.

Let's say I was a eccentric Faerûnian wine collector who recently got his hands on a portable hole. So, naturally, the first thing I do is hire a competent carpenter and let him build a wine cellar into the space: enter image description here

Confident that my century-old orcish wine collection is safe from any burglars, I wrap up the hole and take it with me.

Now, a few days later I'm closing an important business deal with a colleague and intend to pull up a bottle of my best wine. Unfortunately, his office is rather small, so I cannot place the hole on the floor.

Instead, I put it on the nearby wall. What happens to my priceless wine collection on their shelves?

TL;DR:

If a portable hole is placed on a wall instead of a floor (or vice versa), is the interior space rotated to adhere to the orientation of the portal (and thus jumbles everything stored in there around)?

Edition isn't really important as (I think?) the holes worked relatively similarly throughout. If not, I guess focus on the newer editions would be more interesting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And now I have to dig a hole in my house that's deep enough for one of those wine cellars. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 26 '18 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast no, you just unfold the hole and lay it on the floor. Didn't you read the instructions? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 26 '18 at 17:19
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This answer is based on 5e

Your wine collection will be fine, maybe.

Since portable hole exists in a different plane, the orientation of the portal does not change the orientation of the plane.

The cylindrical space within the hole exists on a different plane

(Based on suggestion from comment) This plane is likely a demiplane, since most other planes are defined as the comprehensive list and the outer planes dont really fit, where fundamental forces like gravity seem to be more of a suggestion rather than a given. As such, it is unclear how exactly they interact. Take note is from the PHB:

Demiplanes are small extradimensional spaces with their own unique rules. They are pieces of reality that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

The spell gate serves as a portal to the same location regardless of orientation which may imply that the planes behave the same regardless of the portal (see quote below). If you opened a gate to the demiplane of a portable hole you would appear in one of the spaces at the apex, where you fall is unclear.

You can orient the portal in any direction you choose ... moving through its front. Anything that does so is instantly transported to the other plane, appearing in the unoccupied space nearest to the portal.

In 3.x and 4e the space is not specified on a different plane so a ruling is more complicated.

3.x

This specifies extradimensional which implies that orientation is not relevant but there is no further clarification. (From SRD)

When spread upon any surface, it causes an extradimensional space 10 feet deep to come into being.

4e

This version doesn't even specify extradimensional so either ruling could make sense.

P.S. The demonym is Faerûnian

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer does not cite rules text from portable hole, only an unrelated effect, -1. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel Jan 26 '18 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ An oversight. Fixed @SPavel \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jan 26 '18 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron "Since portable hole exists in a different plane, the orientation of the portal does not change the orientation of the plane." If you enter it facing forward and the entrance of the inside of the hole is facing down, would that mean that like in Steam's Portal if you put the hole onto the wall, that gravity would flip for you once you enter it? \$\endgroup\$ – Suthek Jan 26 '18 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Suthek It should, yes, but the rules of gravity in the portable hole' s plane are not specified. Intuitively, the bottom of the hole is the center of gravity so that's where the forces would pull you. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jan 26 '18 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The orientation of the portal does not change the orientation of the plane." There is still no rules text to support this assertion, @DavidCoffron. Relative to the orientation of the portal, the orientation of the plane may or may not change. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel Jan 26 '18 at 17:45
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Ask your DM, it is never clearly specified.

Having looked at the description of Portable Holes across every edition, there is no mention of gravitational behavior to be found. The 5E description of what a portable hole creates is...

You can use an action to unfold a portable hole and place it on or against a solid surface, whereupon the portable hole creates an extradimensional hole 10 feet deep. The cylindrical space within the hole exists on a different plane, so it can't be used to create open passages.

DMG185

As 5E uses plain English definitions when more explicit ones are not given...Extradimensional simply means

Originating outside the known reality of the universe.

Source

Additionally, the term 'Hole' and 'Deep' are no help. Hole is simply a hollow space in a surface and Deep is...

extending far from some surface or area: such as

a: extending far downward

b: extending well inward from an outer surface

c: extending well back from a surface accepted as front

d: extending far laterally from the center

Source

So, Deep has multiple meanings, so we can't use this to rule on a particular sort of orientation.

This tells us absolutely nothing about how the inside of this hole behaves...let's look a bit deeper.

Looking back to D&D 3.5 we can find this definition that tells us that, technically, the extradimensional space inside of things like a Portable Hole may be considered a sort of demiplane

Demiplane: This catch-all category covers all extradimensional spaces that function like planes but have measurable size and limited access. Other kinds of planes are theoretically infinite in size, but a demiplane might be only a few hundred feet across.

A Plane of any sort, including Demiplanes can have normal gravity, light gravity, heavy gravity, no gravity, objective directional gravity, or subjective directional gravity. In short...planes can have any sort of possible gravity, or none at all.

Looking at other things that create Extradimensional spaces doesn't clarify things either. For example, if we look at the Bag of Holding (DMG153), there is nothing in the description that specifies what happens if you upend it and shake. If you turn it inside out, everything falls out, otherwise pulling things out of it requires an Action.

As a final point, Dragon Magazine #221, in the segment on 101 uses for a Portable Hole, says this:

Finally, the DM must consider the orientation of items within the device. Specifically, does gravity from outside of a closed hole permeate the interior, or does the interior somehow have its own local gravity?

Even an official D&D publication says that the DM needs to determine how gravity works within a Portable Hole

In short, there is no conclusive evidence at all how a Portable Hole interacts with gravity. This is entirely up to the DM to adjudicate.

Options

I have generally seen this run 4 possible ways.

Portable Hole has local gravity pointing 'down.'

In this case, your wine collection is perfectly safe. The portable hole has its own local gravity and so climbing into it is always climbing down.

Some DMs I know are cautious about this ruling, because it allows players to have a deployable gravity trap that points in any direction.

Portable Hole is perpetually subject to local gravity

Under this ruling, a portable hole acts like a physical bag. The 'center' of the cloth always determines which way is 'up' regardless of whether the hole is open or not. Thus, when you pick up the Portable hole and shove it in your pocket, you just jumbled the insides up horribly.

In this case, your wine was doomed from the start.

I've found that most DMs and Players don't really like this model, because it means they can't organize their loot, or have a little shelter in the hole, or whatever.

The Portable Hole normally has no gravity, but adopts the gravity of wherever it is opened for however long it is open.

This is pretty self-explanatory, but I've never seen anyone actually be entirely happy with this (apart from brief funtimes in null-g) This is because things can potentially drift while inside the portable hole, then fall and break even if you open it in the same orientation.

Again, your wine collection is screwed.

The portable hole adopts the gravity of wherever it is open, and retains that gravity until the next time it is opened.

This is an expansion on the prior one, and probably the interpretation I've seen used the most. In short...everything in the portable hole stays where you put it, until you open it up again...when everything re-orients to whatever new position it's in.

Conclusion

In three out of four possible interpretations, your wine collection is in trouble. Might I suggest investing in clamps, glass case covers, or some other means of restraining your prized orcish wine?

But, ultimately, the rules are silent on the specifics of how gravity works in a portable hole, so this is left entirely to the judgement of any given DM.

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