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What happens if you overload a Heward's Handy Haversack? Can you overload it? Or would it just not accept any more items?

The Bag of holding explicitly states what happens: If the bag is overloaded, or if sharp objects pierce it (from inside or outside), the bag ruptures and is ruined. All contents are lost forever.

But neither the Haversack nor the Portable Hole state this. The Haversack does say its pockets are 'like a Bag of Holding' but that's ambiguous. It could just as easily be referring to the extra-dimensional nature of the pockets. The Portable Hole doesn't even have a weight limit, with the implication that it simply spills over when full.

That the Portable Hole uses Planeshift, while both the Bag of Holding and Heward's Handy Haversack use Leomund's Secret Chest leans toward the haversack working like the bag rather than the hole, but again not explicit.

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This will ultimately come down to how you interpret the phrase "each is like a bag of holding," from the description of Heward's handy haversack. If you think that that means the haversack inherits all properties from the bag of holding, except as described, then it's pretty clear what happens when you overfill the haversack. This is a reasonable interpretation, and in some ways the simplest.

If, however, you think (as I personally do) that the above line is simply defining the haversack as an extradimensional space, likening it to a bag of holding simply because that came earlier in the chapter, then it's worth taking a look at other extradimensional spaces in 3.5 and seeing if there's any precedent.

Unfortunately, each extradimensional space is different. Take the quiver of Ehlonna, for example. The quiver is limited by number of items and their type, not any sort of spatial requirements; it can hold eighteen javelins, but not a single rapier, even though that would almost certainly take up less space than the javelins. Or take the spell rope trick, which can hold exactly eight creatures, but size doesn't matter. It can fit eight titans but not nine halflings. When the rope trick ends, it just dumps the creatures out, rather than scattering them to be forever lost like a bag of holding. Rope trick also features the cryptic line

Note: It is hazardous to create an extradimensional space within an existing extradimensional space or to take an extradimensional space into an existing one.

It doesn't elaborate. The only "hazardous" interaction in the rules is between a portable hole and a bag of holding (and, notably, there's nothing in bag of holding's description that prevents you from putting one bag inside another).

So, if it's not like a bag of holding, and it doesn't say explicitly what happens when it's overfull or breaks, how does a handy haversack work? Well, it's limited by volume and weight (it's actually worded as volume or weight, but that's a different argument), and pointiness doesn't matter. So if you fill the main portion of the haversack with exactly eight cubic feet of material, what happens when you try to stuff something else in?

Exactly the same thing that would happen if you were trying to stuff something into a normal space. If it's full of bolts of silk and you're trying to cram a sword in there, you'll ruin the silk. If you're trying to jam a glass jar into a haversack full of rocks, you'll probably break the jar. If you're trying to put a sword into a haversack full of swords, you run the risk of damaging the haversack, which has a hardness of 2 and 5 hit point per inch of thickness. D&D 3.5 doesn't have rules for splitting a bag at the seams, so some amount of DM discretion is necessary here, but it's worth noting that magical items still function just fine until they're destroyed. A suit of leather armor has 10 HP, so a leather haversack probably has a total of somewhere between 5 – 8 HP.

If the handy haversack were to be destroyed, the contents would neither be scattered across the cosmos nor deposited back on the material plane. They'd simply be in their extradimensional space, and you'd need to find a way to access it without the haversack. That's surprisingly tricky, short of sending a very tiny person there via plane shift or having already cast Drawmij's instant summons on the objects you want to retrieve. As discussed in this excellent answer, nondimensional/extradimensional spaces are demiplanes, which are difficult to access as per Manual of the Planes, Chapter Eight. Basically, you'll need to be at the location where the haversack broke to access it, regardless of what magic you use. High level options like crafting a cubic gate or just casting the spell gate will probably do it, or esoteric options like getting a 9th level planeshifter to swap a portion of the material plane with your broken haversack's demiplane. Basically, retrieving the contents of a broken haversack is a high level task, but the contents aren't completely lost.

If that sounds like a headache, it would be quite reasonable to rule that most extradimensional spaces from items dump their contents at the location of the item if it's destroyed, but that would be a house rule; RAW nothing happens, which means they're just stuck in an extradimensional space, and there's no easy way to retrieve them.

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I don't think there's a definitive answer.

However, I think you answered it yourself. If it's created via Leomund's Secret Chest then they would both operate under similar limitations.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Except the Haversack is more intelligent than a bag of holding, since it always has the item you want on top. That's at least marginal evidence that it might be intelligent enough to simply be full when it's full and not allow you to put more into it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kuro_Neko
    Aug 12, 2021 at 1:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kuro_Neko I isn't intelligent, it just happens because magic. Intelligent is a defined property of items in 3.5. Were it intelligent, it would've been mentioned in its description. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2021 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp It's not an intelligent item as in one that has a personality, that was poor choice of words on my part. I just meant that there's obviously more going on in the magic than in a regular bag of holding. If the magic is sophisticated enough to interface with your mind and move what you want to the top, than it's at least possible that it would be sophisticated enough to be full when it's full and not accept more items. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kuro_Neko
    Aug 12, 2021 at 4:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kuro_Neko Sure, I don't question extended qualities. it is possible. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15, 2021 at 4:51

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