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The description of the bag of holding (DMG, p. 152-153) says:

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 the 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.

However, the section on alterations to magic in Curse of Strahd (p. 24) says:

No spell—not even wish—allows one to escape from Strahd's domain. Astral projection, teleport, plane shift, and similar spells cast for the purpose of leaving Barovia simply fail, [...]

What happens if you put a Bag of Holding inside another Bag of Holding (or Handy Haversack, etc.) while in Barovia? Even if the portal fails, what might happen instead?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Very related on Can I defeat strahd by stuffing him in a bag of holding and tearing? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    May 21 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I love the author's plan on that post XD, but this question is about what happens whether or not the astral portal is opened. I'll go ahead and edit it to make that more clear :) \$\endgroup\$ May 21 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, definitely. Not a duplicate, but very related :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    May 21 at 16:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Not relevant, but I just joined this community and it's awesome. I love the support and discussion here, as opposed to some other forums I've been on \$\endgroup\$ May 21 at 16:39
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Item breaks, but nobody leaves because Barovia has already considered that option.

Curse of Strahd explains the "you can't leave" aspect of Barovia:

No spell-not even wish-allows one to escape from Strahd's domain. ... spells cast for the purpose of leaving Barovia simply fail, as do effects that banish a creature to another plane of existence. These restrictions apply to magic items and artifacts that have properties that transport or banish creatures to other planes.

(emphasis mine)

5e's Bag of Holding includes the warnings:

If the bag is overloaded, pierced, or torn, it ruptures and is destroyed, and its contents are scattered in the Astral Plane.

and

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.

One of the meta-rules of D&D is "specific beats general" - that is, a more-specific rule can override a more general rule. The Barovia rule is more specific than the Bag of Holding's rule - it applies only in one place (where the Bag's rule applies "everywhere"), and it explicitly states that it overrules other, more general rules.

Thus, within Barovia, Bags of Holding cannot spill creatures into the Astral Plane, nor can a Bag of Holding and a Portable Hole create a portal which allows creatures to enter the Astral Plane. They can be destroyed, of course.

It's unclear whether the non-creature contents of an exploding bag would be ejected to the Astral Plane, however. FWIW, this GM would probably allow Strahd to choose, much like he can make himself the target "spells that allow contact with beings from other planes".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you think of @Tsugihagi's assertion that the portal "blinks into existence, no creatures can be moved from Barovia, and the portal is gone"? \$\endgroup\$ May 21 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JakeFuller: I have no problem with that interpretation, and may even narrate the bag's destruction in that way (especially if items still get scattered). But, that's a "cinematic" effect separate from the mechanics of how/why it works. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    May 21 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ The issue with "specific beats general" is that you can, in most cases, easily argue both ways. To me, a rule on the interaction between a very limited subset of items seems much more specific than a rule that's fundamental to an entire setting, at least if you're playing in that setting. \$\endgroup\$ May 22 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ People commonly misuse "specific beats general" on these boards. There is not such thing as 'more specific'. Here's the original text: "[The PHB] contains rules, especially in parts 2 and 3, that govern how the game plays. That said, many racial traits, class features, spells, magic items, monster abilities, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception [...] If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins." There is no rule about how to deal with a conflict between two exceptions, such as a magic item vs a region. \$\endgroup\$ May 23 at 20:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ The rule I quoted is pretty clear that rule elements are either specific or general: one of two categories, not somewhere on a continuum between them. It's absurd to have an argument over whether a spell is "more specific" than a racial ability or what-have-you. They're both "specific" -- they're both exceptions to the general rules. "Specific beats general" isn't a useful way to discuss how to handle things except in a very small subset of situations. As Ruther correctly said, you can argue almost anything as being "more specific" than anything else. That line of reasoning fails. \$\endgroup\$ May 23 at 23:17
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You sort of cut off the rules text, there. If you keep going, it is actually very specific and covers this question:

No spell -- not even wish -- allows one to escape from Strahd's domain. Astral projection, teleport, plane shift, and similar spells cast for the purpose of leaving Barovia simply fail, as do effects that banish a creature to another plane of existence. These restrictions apply to magic items and artifacts that have properties that transport or banish creatures to other planes.

A Bag of Holding rift is pretty clearly transportation or banishment, so "these restrictions apply", and the effect fails. The items are still destroyed, of course, because there's nothing in the rules that would stop that from occurring.

Now, as a DM, I'd probably not have the rift simply fizzle; instead I'd have it suck up all the nearby creatures and scatter them across Barovia. Ending up deep in the forest might not be the astral plane, but it's not exactly "nothing happens", either.

That ruling also gives a handy answer to the question of what happens to a punctured Bag of Holding -- rather than spilling the contents across the astral plane, they wind up scattered across Barovia.

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Items break, but nobody leaves.

The interaction between Bags of Holding and other space-funny effects is considered a Spell by RAW, despite the somewhat odd wording of what a Spell can be defined as (D&D Beyond):

A spell is a discrete magical effect, a single shaping of the magical energies that suffuse the multiverse into a specific, limited expression.

Having said that, crashing a Bag of Holding into another Bag of Holding isn't cast for the purpose of leaving Barovia, in fact it's not cast at all. Barovia's effect doesn't explicitly say "portals cannot be created", it simply states:

No spell allows one to escape from Strahd's domain.

From that, lacking a more specific ruling, the items break, the portal blinks into existence, no creatures can be moved from Barovia, and the portal is gone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You're drawing the wrong conclusion of what a spell is here. The quoted text is correct, but the bag of holding's interaction is not a spell just because it has a magical effect. Yes, a spell is a discrete magical effect, but not all discrete magical effects are spells, in the same way that all cat species have 4 legs, but a dog with 4 legs is still not a cat. \$\endgroup\$
    – RallozarX
    May 21 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have a point, but would that detract from the end conclusion? I'll adjust the answer accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tsugihagi
    May 21 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Is considered a spell?" I don't see you supporting that. (Interesting ruling if you are a DM, but for an answer I'd like to see more support). You might do better to cite "Specific beats General" as support for this position. Up to you. \$\endgroup\$ May 21 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see any way to claim a bag-rift is a spell. In every rule and Sage Advice answer, only a spell is a spell. It's important because there are a lot of rules that have to do with spells and clearly would not apply to non-spell effects like a rift. \$\endgroup\$ May 21 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whether or not it is a spell doesn't make a difference, because it is certainly an "effect that banish[es] a creature..." and it says "as do..." So nobody can leave by the effect of two bags collapsing. I dont see the relevance of the first half of your answer. Also, is your point that the bag and it's contents are still destroyed by the portal, but still nobody leaves because it's an effect? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    May 22 at 5:24

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