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I am looking for an alternative to bag of holding that is simpler and provides the weight reduction benefit without all the extra baggage from creating extradimensional spaces.

Sack of Carrying
Wonderous Item, Uncommon

This item appears like a normal, large sack that weighs 5 pounds. It can hold 12 cubic feet or 360 pounds, without changing its total weight. Creatures in the sack can breathe normally. You can put objects or creatures into the sack or take them out with a normal object interaction.

Are there any balance, mechanics or wording issues this item would have?


Background:

The bag of holding creates a permanent, extradimensional space and a portal effect to access it, quite the exotic effect for an item that is merely uncommon, too exotic for my tastes. It also has lots of additional clauses about bad stuff that happens if you put it into another extradimensional space (or vice versa), which for me makes it unneccesarily complicated.

While characters mostly use it to lug around equipment and loot, they can also can use it to hide items from divination spells that are limited to the same plane, which is an unrelated effect to providing carrying capacity. I am looking for a simpler item to add to the game.

I have no problems with bag of holding per se. Its a cool item I love like the next guy. I also have no issue with it being used with all its features, when the characters have one. But for tier one play, I feel a simpler item would be a better fit, and am looking to create one. Think of it like I'd like the option of a +1 sword, rather than just having a flametongue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is probably how the thought process started when they created the first bag of holding, and the extradimensional space was the solution to the problem of 'how does the bag not become enormous?' \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 9 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would an object that can just hold as much weight and volume as a mundane sack, but which weighs (much) less when filled scratch this itch? It seems to me that the volume compression that seems to be driving the bag of holding's extra dimensional space, and that extra dimensional aspect is what you're objecting to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Sep 9 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dave: That is an alternative approach, the only issue I have with the standard sack is that it is puny small: just 30 lbs and 1 cubic foot of content. That is more like a little sacklet, than like a proper sack. Most real-world sacks I know pack at least 2-3 cubic feet and would weigh a lot more if filled. The reason I picked this size is to for sure allow putting a player character in. Although maybe 3 cubic feet of material would be sufficient for that. Or as Thoas suggests, just forget about the volume complication, and only go by weight. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ So is the actual problem that the Bag of Holding contains an extradimensional space, that you think should be more difficult to make, or that there is some other consequence of that design that is problematic? \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Sep 10 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I believe that your problem is fundamentally with the spatial distortions in these objects -- extra dimensional space for holding, shrinkage for the new one. My suggestion is to get rid of that, one way or another. I was also thinking of something like: Tenser's floating bin: fixed size, fixed weight, but follows the user around like Tenser's Floating Disk; indeed, why not just make a permanent floating disk magic item (or an item that can cast floating disk up to n times per day)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Nov 15 at 20:51

5 Answers 5

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Where does the stuff go? How big does the bag get?

Without the interdimensional space, putting 12 cubic feet of stuff would result in a bag that is 12 cubic feet in size -- because there is nowhere for the things to go. The item as written decreases the weight, but not the size of the item. So, the party looks like they stole Santa's bag.

Let's think about this a bit more. If the bag doesn't shrink items, then it is decreasing mass but not volume, decreasing the density of the items. Thus the bag becomes less dense the more volume you give it, and so if it becomes less dense than water, it can be abused as a flotation device, and if it becomes less dense than air, it becomes a balloon.

If you update it to shrink the items, you run into some other problems I'll address later.

How long does it take to get something out?

Without the clauses about pulling out the right object, you won't be able to pull the right object out quickly, so you'd have to dump out the entire 12 cubic feet of troll parts to find the 3 silver pieces rattling around the bottom of the bag.

What happens if the bag is ripped?

Is the item able to be ripped? Magic items, by default, are indestructible by normal means, and without a clause about the bag is open to weird abuse, especially if things don't shrink on their way into the bag. Because you can push the indestructible 12 cubic foot bag that only weighs 5 pounds against a door, or hide behind it.

If it can be ripped. Do the items that leave the bag through the rip remain less dense? And if you add shrinking to address the first question, do they also remain small if they fall through the rip? Or do they suddenly regain their weight and size?

Frame of Reference Challenge

The issues you have with the Bag of Holding can be solved in other ways. Such as not giving it out in tier one play (or at all) or simply forbidding its misuse and abuse. Your item is poorly thought out patch to a problem that isn't about the item, it is about your players -- or at least how you think your players will use the bag.

[C]lauses about bad stuff that happens if you put it into another extradimensional space

If that is a problem at your table don't give them any other extradimensional items if you give them a bag of holding. Spells that create extradimensional effects are higher level spells.

they can also can use it to hide items from divination spells that are limited to the same plane

Then BBEG uses different divination spells, or the BBEG knows who took the items and scry/trace/track the players instead of the item. That isn't about railroading either, it is thinking about what the BBEG would resond to the parties use of the bag to hide the item they want.

The argument that putting the stuff into an extradimensional space is "less complex" than instantly changing the mass (and potentially size) of the item in this plane is weird to me. The extradimensional bag of holding just makes the item go somewhere else, where your bag changes the mass (and potentially volume) of the items inside which if you play with real-world physics can create even more and unexpected abuse than the play-tested and tried and true item from the DMG. But at the end of the day, it is your table, and if you feel a need for the item go for it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hiding from divination is hardly a problem either, a simple lead box does that. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 9 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, I accepted and upvoted this, on the strength of the volume observations. I have no problems with bag of holding per se, but I think extra dimensional spaces are ill-fitting and needlessly complex to handle for an uncommon item. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I think you need to think more about why they exist and why they are complicated. Then solve those problems rather than create new items which will just end up with the same problems. All the complexity was clearly an attempt at avoiding abuse rather than a conscious "let's make this complex" decision. Most players don't understand they actually are complex, it's just a big bag, and the players that do understand the complexity should know better than to actually do anything complex with them. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 10 at 14:29
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Just tell your players to stop it.

You're making a solution that isn't needed to fix your problem.

Your problem (X) is that players are using mechanics to do things that you don't want them to do. You've come up with a new magic item (Y) as a solution and are asking about that. I'm telling you that isn't solving your problem, and suggesting how you can solve your actual problem.

If the problem is players having the bag do more than it really intends, then the solution is asking the players not to do those things. We're clever people and we'll figure out things no one has thought of. If that thing is disrupting the game, you simply ask for that thing to stop.

You've stated that there is a small problem in the mis-use of additional clauses - so just ask them not to do that. Don't create a new item that is specifically created for them not to do that - just talk to your players.

We're all playing a game together and if someone is doing something that is ruining the fun for others, then it's best to talk about it and find a solution there rather than stick a band-aid on the issue and hope it doesn't come up somewhere else.

If you really want the bag, then talk to the players

If the bag is the solution, then talk with your players about what their needs are for the bag and what you're actually willing to give them. You'll find a balance between the two only by communicating with the whole table. You'll also likely uncover more things about what everyone would like clarified about mechanics at your actual table.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My issue is not player abuse, I am fine with the players using bag of holding. My issue is to have a simpler item that does better fit an uncommon rarity and does only one thing. I am sorry but you are not answering the question. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 at 12:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I'm sorry, but I see this as an X-Y issue. Now, I may be incorrect, but we can both see where the votes end up and if you (or I) should reconsider our stance. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Sep 9 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin Your question is literally about the clauses causing problems. If that isn't your concern, can you please update your question with what was your concern and goal for this item? "To curb abuse it has additional clauses about bad stuff that happens if you put it into another extradimensional space (or vice versa)." \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Sep 9 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ all the stuff about bag of holding is just background to explain why I want a simpler item. My quesiton is about possible issues with the item. I will reword it to make that clearer, thank you for explaining what you struggle with. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 at 13:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please also clarify what your goals are for this item - what you want it to do. If the bit about the clauses being problematic was a red herring, why was it there in the first place and why not keep those clauses in the next item if they aren't an issue? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Sep 9 at 13:12
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I want a clear way to determine what fits into the bag and what doesn't.

You've touched on some of the problems with the Bag of Holding, but you have missed my single greatest pet peeve about the item: I have no consistent method of ruling what fits through the mouth of the bag and what doesn't. Does it stretch to accommodate oddly proportioned objects or creatures that meet the weight and volume requirements? I'm just tired of not having a good answer to "will X fit through the mouth of the bag?" I don't really have a good idea for a solution here, if I did I would have implemented it already. "Magically accommodates anything that meets the weight/volume limit" seems like the easiest thing to work with.

I don't know the volume of a horse, or anything that isn't an elementary solid.

Related to the last point, I don't know the volume of stuff. Sure, I can convert gallons to cubic feet and tell you how much water the bag will hold. But what's the volume of a 359 pound pony? I don't know, and I shouldn't have to know to tell you what a magic item can do. I would do away with the interior volume limit and just use weight, because I am much better at knowing the weights of things.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, I can emphasize with this. One way would be to not limiti it by volume at all, but there still is an opening, and especially if the sack is to behave as a mundane sack it the DM would need to adjudicate what fits through there or not. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ponies are about as dense as water, which is ~60lb/cu.ft... so about 6 cubic feet? But your point's taken. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Sep 10 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most living beings are water dense (~1000 kg / m³). \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Sep 11 at 6:59
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Your wording will be confusing to anyone used to D&D's ubiquitous 'bag of holding' and similar items.

Instead something like this will make it clearer to your players what you are aiming for.

Sack of Lightness

Wondrous Item, Uncommon

This item appears as a normal, large sack with a weight of 5 pounds. It can hold an amount of goods typical for a large sack, 12 cubic feet or so. Items placed entirely inside the sack no longer have weight, allowing the wielder to carry the sack without adding the weight of the items inside it to their carrying capacity. Although the weight is not added, the sack if filled with its full allowance of space is still quite large, so an adventurer carrying multiple of these sacks may look quite comical, or run into problems squeezing through tight spaces.

Although used for a similar purpose to a bag of holding, the sack of lightness does not make use of extradimensional spaces and retrieving or adding an item to the sack functions as it would with any nonmagical sack of non-lightness.

Wording is a bit colloquial/chatty there, but it should provide a guide. Provided you make it clear that this isn't a sack of holding or carrying or whatever, it's just a sack that makes items inside not weigh anything in the title and spell it out a few times in the text, your players should get the message. If you don't, they might just assume based on similarity of purpose to another, extremely well known item.

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It feels reasonably balanced, but feel free to add the fixes suggested by Thomas Markov. Stricter definitions removes the necessity for arbitrary judgements.

However, J. A. Streich makes a valid comment - where does things go, without a portal of some sort? As far as I understand your description, you're planning on not making things "go" anywhere, per se, just lose all mass and volume while inside the bag. Since that seems a bit weird in the D&D magic paradigm, I propose a fix:

Sack of Reduction

Wondrous Item, Uncommon

This item appears like a normal, large sack that weighs 5 pounds. It can hold up to 360 pounds, pre-reduction. Anything placed into the sack will, once fully inside, be subject to a Reduce effect, decreasing its size by one category, until removed from the sack or the sack is destroyed. Creatures in the sack can breathe normally. Putting held objects or physically compliant creatures into the sack or taking them out requires an Action. The mouth of the sack is malleable with a maximum circumference of 3 feet, and the depth of the bag is 4 feet.

Now we're using the existing magical ideas of D&D, though the effects are significantly less than the Bag of Holding - the sack will grow in size and weight as you fill it, though not commensurate to what you stuff inside. I specified the mouth, and added the limitation that things must fit wholly inside before being Reduced.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this idea. I might use something similar to this, allowing the sack to be smaller, without needing to divide weight by eight, maybe saying something like the items shrink while inside so they fit as if the inside were x cubic feet large. Or just use weight as Thomas suggests. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ "You can put objects or creatures into the sack or take them out with a normal object interaction." This is still missing some rules to limit the player's ability to shove enemies into the bag. I think it is important to say willing creatures, or maybe to specify an escape action that imprisoned creatures can take. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toddleson
    Sep 16 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Toddleson I was using the Sack of Carrying as a template, I compared to Bag of Holding and used the Action from that, and added in "held" for objects and "physically compliant" for creatures - it seems reasonable Hold Person or those proverbial fifty feet of rope can help bring unwilling creatures into the Sack. Re: Escape, well, the sack is a sack - cut it open? If it's destroyed, the Reduce effect is removed. Anyone trapped inside is not in a pocket dimension, so a sharp knife should suffice \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Sep 16 at 17:52

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