Sunday 26 September 2021

Magic bags and the things inside them

I've always thought that Aeolus's bag of wind from The Odyssey would be a great item for a D&D campaign. It's a bag with a wind inside it: point it in the right direction and open it to blow your ship across the sea, or knock your opponents down, or blow out a fire, or whatever. The effect is powerful enough to be useful, but specific enough to force players to think about how to turn it to their advantage, and the fact that it's a one-use item means you don't need to worry about the PCs suddenly upending your whole campaign setting by generating winds on demand. 

I reckon that the same principle could be applied more broadly. What other intangibles could a magician put inside a bag?

Category (roll 1d3)

  1. Weather bag.
  2. Emotion bag.
  3. Abstraction bag.

Weather Bags (roll 1d8) - When opened, these create a localised weather effect in a radius of 1d10x100 feet around the bag, which lasts for 1d6 hours. (The wind bag is an exception - see below.)

  1. Blizzard bag: Cold to the touch, and shakes and shudders violently. When opened a whole blizzard bursts out, filling the surrounding area with screaming winds and freezing, blinding gales of snow. Visibility drops to almost nothing, flying is impossible, and surfaces will be rapidly covered with snow and frost, making them very slippery and difficult to cross for anyone who isn't moving very slowly and carefully. 
  2. Cold bag: Cool to the touch - you could put it in a crate to make a crude refrigerator, or make a tiny hole in it to release a steady stream of ultra-cold air. Opened all at once it releases a burst of intense cold, enough to make a scorching desert feel pleasantly cool, or a temperate day feel like an arctic night. (If it's already an arctic night, you'll be in instant-death-from-hypothermia territory.) As well as the obvious effects on living things, the sudden drop in temperature may freeze nearby water and cause surfaces to become slippery with frost.
  3. Fog bag: You could make a pinprick in the side and use it for spooky dry-ice-style mist effects, but if this bag is opened a huge cloud of fog will pour out, reducing visibility in the surrounding area to almost zero. Good for covering escapes and other acts of stealth.
  4. Heat bag: Warm to the touch - you could use it like a hot water bottle on cold winter nights, or make a tiny hole in it to release a steady stream of heat powerful enough to cook or burn with. Open it all at once and it releases a burst of intense heat, enough to make a polar ice waste feel temperate, or a temperate day feel utterly unbearable. (If you're already in the tropical heat, it will raise temperatures to unsurvivable levels.) As well as the obvious effects on living things, the sudden increase in temperature may melt nearby ice or cause nearby water to evaporate, and will create a powerful localised air current - after all, hot air rises!
  5. Rainstorm bag: Moisture continually osmoses through the fabric - handy if you have something you want to keep moist. Make a tiny hole in it and water will trickle out: the total amount you can get out of it is finite, but it's many, many times larger than the bag could possibly physically contain. Rip it open and a drenching, monsoon-style rainstorm bursts out, cooling and soaking everyone within the affected area, massively decreasing visibility, and extinguishing open fires. Surfaces will be slick and slippery within minutes, and if there's nowhere for all the water to drain off to then localised flooding will soon ensue. 
  6. Sunlight bag: A faint glow emanates from between the closely-woven fibres of this bag, equivalent to soft candlelight. Make a hole in it and a beam of strong, bright sunlight emerges that you can use like a flashlight, or as an anti-vampire laser. Pull it open and hot, bright, dazzling sunlight pours out, floodlighting the whole area as though under a noonday sun, making stealth difficult and potentially causing temporary blindness in areas shifting rapidly from dark to light.
  7. Thunderstorm bag: Shakes violently and makes loud rumbling noises. In most respects this is just a noisier version of the rainstorm bag, but if you pull it open you get flashing lightning and deafening thunder as well as just rain, making it extremely hazardous to anyone standing on top of tall objects and/or waving conductive objects around.
  8. Wind bag: Trembles continuously. Poking a hole in it causes a strong stream of air to pour forth - potentially useful for blowing out flames, for example. Opening it fully causes a powerful gale-like wind to pour out of the bag for the duration. Unlike all the other weather bags, this wind does not simply create an environmental effect in the area around the opener: instead it is directional, with wind continuing to blow outwards in whichever direction the bag is pointed, allowing it to be used to propel ships across water, used as a weapon to knock people over, etc. Once the bag is opened there's no way to shut it again - the wind will just keep blowing out until it's exhausted. 

Bag of Emotion (roll 1d10) When opened, these create a localised mood effect in a radius of 1d10x10 feet around the bag. Anyone within the affected area when the bag is opened must save or be affected by the relevant emotion for the next 1d6 hours. Many would make good missile weapons as long as you can be sure of them bursting on impact.
  1. Bag of anger: Anyone affected will be filled with irrational rage for the duration. The tiniest setbacks or disagreements will prompt screaming arguments and howls of fury, minor provocations will lead to fistfights, and serious insults or challenges are likely to provoke lethal violence. 
  2. Bag of confidence: Anyone affected will be filled with irrational confidence for the duration. This isn't insanity - they won't believe they can do something impossible, like fly or breathe water - but will tend to make people very, very reckless. Rank amateurs will gleefully attempt tasks that they would normally leave to trained professionals, while experts will throw all their normal caution to the wind. These effects can be helpful - e.g. to give someone with social anxiety the confidence to speak publicly - but will always tend more towards 'manic overconfidence' rather than 'calm self-belief'.
  3. Bag of curiosity: Anyone affected will be overwhelmed by curiosity. What's behind that door? What does that lever do? Why does that guy always look pale whenever anyone mentions snakes? Very occasionally, this can be a good thing, prompting people to solve puzzles and unravel mysteries they would otherwise have left untouched. More commonly it will lead to broken friendships at best ('What did happen on that night you told me never to ask about?') and broken limbs at worst. ('I wonder what happens if you push the button marked 'do not push'?')
  4. Bag of envy: Anyone affected will have their feelings of envy and resentment magnified manifold. This makes most social interactions enormously difficult: even something as simple as handing out jobs will cause intense bickering as people argue over all the ways in which they are being unfairly slighted. Anything that would normally cause envy anyway (e.g. seeing someone else with something you powerfully desire and/or believe should be rightfully yours) may well lead to acts of theft or violence. 
  5. Bag of fear: Anyone affected will be consumed with overwhelming anxiety, convinced that something absolutely terrible is about to happen. Even minor stressors (e.g. someone jumping out unexpectedly) will cause screaming and cowering, while something that would normally be scary (e.g. a fire, a battle) will prompt either fainting or panicked flight.
  6. Bag of friendship: Anyone affected will be filled with warm, fuzzy, happy feelings, like the kind you get after three or four drinks with really good friends. Enmity or hostility will still be regarded as such, but any kind of friendly behaviour will be enthusiastically reciprocated, even when it comes from complete strangers. Those affected will also be much more trusting than they normally would be. 
  7. Bag of guilt: Anyone affected will be consumed with guilt over every shameful thing they've ever done. If they're already feeling guilty about something, then the amplified feeling will be so powerful that it may prompt dramatic confessions, spectacular attempts at restitution, or even suicide attempts. Otherwise it will just make them really miserable and self-involved, too caught up in beating themselves up over everything they've ever done wrong to notice much of what is going on around them, and too crippled by self-loathing to accomplish anything more than the most basic and routine tasks for the duration. 
  8. Bag of sloth: Anyone affected is overwhelmed by feelings of laziness. Every task is carried out in the most half-assed fashion possible. Every corner that can possibly be cut will be. (Depending on exactly what they're currently doing, this may be extremely dangerous!) They will still try to protect themselves against immediate threats, but will never do more than this: they will not, for example, pursue a fleeing enemy.
  9. Bag of happiness: Anyone affected will feel happy. Really, really happy. Singing and dancing and laughing for no reason levels of happy. Negative emotions (e.g. fear, depression, anger) will simply vanish. Pain or exhaustion don't go away, but become nothing that can't be handled with gritted teeth or the aid of a rousing song. The effect is really, really enjoyable, and highly addictive. 
  10. Bag of misery: Anyone affected sinks into utter misery and despair for the duration, unable to do anything much except sit and weep about how unhappy they are. If threatened with immediate harm they will still try to protect or defend themselves, but are unlikely to be very good at it. 

Bag of Abstraction  (roll 1d10)

  1. Bag of darkness: Opening it a little bit is like dimming all the lights in a room, which may be handy if you're currently trying to sneak around. Opening it all the way releases a cloud of impenetrable magical darkness that persists for 1d6 hours.
  2. Bag of dreams: Opening this bag a crack will let a dream slip into your head, good for 1d3 hours of pleasantly surreal lucid dreaming. Ripping it open will force everyone within 1d6x10 feet to save or be plunged into a hallucinatory dreamworld for the next 1d6 hours, during which they can perceive reality only dimly, as though half-asleep. Suffering physical pain or damage will wrench them awake. 
  3. Bag of energy: Just letting out a little bit is enough to remove the fatigue of an hour's hard labour. Opening the whole bag will cause everyone within 1d10x10 feet to race around like rabbits on speed for 1d6 hours, after which they must save or crash spectacularly for the next 2d6 hours. 
  4. Bag of ideas: Just a sniff from this bag is enough to give you new ideas, allowing a reroll on Intelligence rolls or similar. If the whole bag is opened, everyone within 1d10x10 feet must save or be overwhelmed by too many ideas, spending the next 1d6 hours frantically trying to scribble down notes, build prototypes, etc. (Note that this doesn't grant any skills you don't already possess, just new ideas for how to use your existing ones.) They will still protect themselves if threatened, but will otherwise be lost in worlds of their own for the duration. If they have the ability to write down or otherwise record their ideas then they will each find 1d10 really good ones buried amongst all the gibberish after they finally come down from their intellectual high. 
  5. Bag of motivation: Inhaling a sniff of vapour from this bag is enough to motivate someone to push forward through hours of boring, difficult, and/or exhausting labour, but watch out - if the bag ever bursts, everyone within 1d10x10 feet must save or suddenly find the motivation to do whatever it is they've been putting off for their whole lives, which probably means they all instantly run off to take up singing or confess their love to their childhood crush or whatever.
  6. Bag of pain: This is a nasty one - even touching it hurts a bit. You can release it onto someone a trickle at a time as a form of torture, or throw the bag to unleash a cloud of incapacitating agony, forcing everyone within 1d6x10 feet to save or drop to the floor screaming in pain for 1d20 minutes. They can still try to defend themselves, but will do so with greatly reduced effectiveness.
  7. Bag of pleasure: Sniff a bit for an instant high, or throw it to make everyone within 1d6x10 feet save or drop to the floor in blissed-out stupefaction for 1d20 minutes, during which time they will do nothing but smile vacantly and maybe quiver a little. Anyone who wants to be affected can voluntarily fail their save.
  8. Bag of sickness: Not the airplane kind: instead, these are create by medical magicians, who pull the diseases out of their patients and place them inside these bags. If opened, everyone within 1d10x10 feet must save or become seriously ill, spending the next 1d20 days mostly bedridden by pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and various other unpleasant (though not life-threatening) symptoms.
  9. Bag of stupidity: Created as a by-product of magical intelligence-enhancing rituals, during which wizards deliberately suck out their own stupidity and seal it away in enchanted bags. If the bag is opened or broken, everyone within 1d10x10 feet must save or have their effective Intelligence and Wisdom halved for the next 1d6 hours. 
  10. Bag of time: Who doesn't need more time? Opening it just a crack will allow a few more seconds to slip out between one minute and the next, which can be crucial when performing exacting tasks under pressure. Opening the whole bag will release a bubble of compressed time with a radius of 1d10x10 feet: from inside this bubble the world outside appears to be frozen for the next 1d6 hours, whereas from outside everything that happens in the bubble during those hours appears to occur instantaneously. Nothing from inside the bubble can leave the bubble until the compressed time has elapsed. 


  1. Brilliant stuff. I recall doing something similar with sphinxes breathing X or bestowing Y - sandstorms, hunger, vertigo, awareness of mortality.
    Mind you, a bag of locusts or a bag of milk and honey may turn out to be rather disappointing.

    1. A regular bag of locusts would be unimpressive, but an enchanted bag containing a whole locust plague could be devastating!

      And a sphinx breathing milk and honey could make for a memorably odd, if very sticky, encounter...

  2. Ggyax did craft a Bag of Winds in TD#27's "Bazaar of the Bizarre" which I've used as a pregen magic item in some of my Castle Greyhawk games :D


  3. Some fun ideas! I think I have lost my bag of ideas though.

    Another bag idea that I have enjoyed is The Infinite Bag of Holding (you can find it on drivethru)- bags within bags, each its own location to explore. The existing adventure is a bit silly, but the idea provides a Tardis-like world for the characters to explore.

    Oh, and was there just one bag of wind in Greek mythology or four?

    1. Didn't Knights of the Dinner Table have an arc where the PCs left all their spare resources and henchmen inside a bag of holding, and the henchmen, tired of being forgotten about, eventually used the items to rebel and build fortifications, forcing the PCs to bloodily reconquer the inside of their own bag?

      There's only one bag of wind in the Odyssey. Centuries later, though, sailors used to buy knots from witches, each of which supposedly had a specific wind tied up inside it. When you need the wind, just untie the corresponding knot...

  4. The bag of ideas would be a cool plot device in a story, but I think that in an RPG, where you'd probably have to push the ideas below the abstraction layer, it might feel a bit unsatisfying?

    1. You could probably keep most of them pretty abstract, TBH. 'You have a brilliant idea about how to complete the job you're working on more quickly, reducing the completion time by 10%.' That sort of thing.

      Or just use it to feed insights to the players that they might have missed. 'You suddenly realise that the captain's stories don't add up! He must be hiding something!'

    2. I love the idea of revelations about the setting that the PCs could theoretically have guessed as ideas.