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To my understanding, strength is the only stat that can be increased beyond 20 just wearing (and attuning to) an item.

I am playing an Arcane Trickster, with wood elf magic feat.

For my backstory and a solo-sidequest I will undertake in an upcoming hiatus (every player will do the same, we're ending the campaign at lvl 10 and will get back from hiatus at lvl 12), I am trying to come up - together with the DM - with an item that is a family heirloom that got stolen from me and that I want to get back.

Since I need to take care of DEX, INT, and WIS as a minimum, I was hoping to be able to convince the DM to design a "Tiara of X intelligence" or "Bracers of Y dexterity" (or something for CHA that right now I have no idea what it could be).

I understand that anything bringing my DEX up would be probably too unbalanced (extra hit chance, damage and AC all in one), but if you have ways in which this could balanced, I am all ears.

Would something bringing my INT up to 24 or 26 too unbalanced? (it would bring up my hit chance and DC level for my spells.)

Is there an inherent reason why STR is the only stat to have built-in objects that bring it above 20? [as an aside, why odd numbers? why not round them down? :very annoyed: ]

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3 Answers 3

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The possibilities are few and far between

Due to bounded accuracy built into 5e, most things do let let you go above 20.

Barbarians get a capstone to increase their STR and CON, and there are tomes and manuals for each of the stats that can raise them by two to a max of 22. Same with the Book of Exalted Deeds and Book of Vile Darkness.

But for just general stat raising, there are a fair number of items:

  • Amulet of Health (CON 19)
  • Belt of Dwarvenkind (CON +2/Max 20)
  • Deck of Many Things (Star card can increase any score by two/Max 24)
  • Gauntlets of Ogre Power (STR 19)
  • Gloves of Soul Catching (CON 20)
  • Hammer of Thunderbolts (STR +4 if also wearing Belt of Dwarvenkind/Max 30)
  • Hand of Vecna (STR 20)
  • Headband of Intellect (INT 19)
  • Ioun Stone (1 stat +2/Max 20)
  • Orb of the Veil (WIS +2/No Max)
  • Stormgirdle (STR 21 or 23)
  • Sword of Zariel (CHA 20)

There is probably more, but those are the ones I found from a quick search.

As for ending on odd numbers

That is design intent and we really don't have an actual answer (unless someone finds a random tweet).

Best guess; stats get bonuses on even numbers, but some math is done on the actual number, such as carry weight. So by ending on an odd, you get the benefit of better math, but not the stat bonus increase.

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The fact that even the lowest-ranked Belt of Giant Strength (Hill Giant, for a STR score of 21) is a Rare item, while the others are Very Rare and Legendary, should clue you that these items are extremely strong.

There are very few items and feats that allow you to increase a stat beyond 20, because this messes with the very 5e-inherent system of bounded accuracy. A few examples are the Barbarian's capstone ability Primal Champion which make going to 24 STR and CON possible, the Manuals of X for an increase of 2 stat points (plus an increase to the limit of max 22). Ioun Stones can raise an ability score, but not beyond 20. Epic Boons are also a possibility at the DM's discretion.

As you can see, going beyond 22 is only possible for STR and CON, with very few paths and really high-level items and feats. I can see the intention behind this being that raising DEX and the three mental stats beyond that would make casters even stronger. Your spell save DC would be insanely high, as would be your damage bonus, and your saving throw bonus. Any player character with stats that high ceases to be a player, and becomes more of a NPC (demi)god, depending on the setting.

You can of course play Epic level campaigns, but 5e isn't really laid out for this; 3.5e (which I haven't played) seems to be a better avenue here.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ just for reference, we got access to a belt of hill giant strength at level 5 or 6 (I think? we got to 10 last session) \$\endgroup\$
    – Federico
    Apr 11, 2022 at 7:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you playing Storm King's Thunder, by chance? :) Also Gauntlets of Ogre Power, an Uncommon item, sets your STR to 19, which can be quite the buff if STR is not your main attribute; so the threshold around 20 may be more easily reached in official modules or with a generous DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – John Doe
    Apr 11, 2022 at 7:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ no, we're playing a modified Princes of the Apocalypse. 4 out of 6 in the party are at their first game (I'm one of the 4) \$\endgroup\$
    – Federico
    Apr 11, 2022 at 8:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I personally don't like these items; I think they override the critical character choice of what stats to focus on. Like, a cleric has to make a critical choice between the strength path and the wisdom path, and trying to straddle the line usually means nerfing both... OR they can just get a pair of ogre gauntlets and have both. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11, 2022 at 15:01
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Simply unbalanced, not utterly

Power of stats

The main difference is - Wisdom is a power stat, Dexterity is a power stat, Constitution is a power stat, even charisma to some degree. Strength is not. Strength is solely useful in combat or encounters that needs strength specifically. There is one skill based on strength, where 3 is on dex, 5 on wis and int, entirety of social interactions can be made using only charisma, with some insight. Dexterity helps with initiative and AC, wisdom with perception, arguably the most important skill in the game, constitution increases hit points. Mental stats are for the spellcasting, and let's be honest here, spellcasting cannot be compared to the axing your enemies to death in term of potency, the gap increasing with the progression of levels, and strengthening spellcasting is a big deal. And don't get me started for the saves - strength saves you will ever need to do are within rounding error of the saves you would do throughout a campaign, and avoiding grappling can be done by dexterity too. To sum up, strength is just not potent enough to compare to the other stats.

Narrative reasons

Giants are known, universally, for their strength. They are the epitome of strength, always have been, and it is not really a case with other stats. Multitude of giants and their scaling strength is additional thing opting for that. What would you have for others? Golden Tongue of the Dybbuk? Diamond Tongue of the Pit Fiend? Or The Socks of Really Fast Tortle? It just don't sit right with others.

There are some items, though

Headband of Intellect sets your Intelligence to 19, as Amulet of Health does with Constitution. It is not something you cannot outpace with ASI, but if you are not focusing on the ability score, those are reasonable options. The key word is "reasonable" - nothing really breaks the 20 max other than the manuals or some artifacts.

:very annoyed:

About why are they uneven - it is a tradition. On the even you get increase to your ability modifier, the uneven are granted by items and are the requirements (for feats, for example, or multiclassing). It is a leftover from previous editions, if nothing else.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Barbarian level 20 ability also breaks the 20 limit for STR and CON (concerning "nothing really breaks the 20 max other than the manuals or some artifacts"). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11, 2022 at 9:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster I was mostly reffering to the items - you cannot really "gain" 20th level feature sooner, buy it in the shop, loot it or steal it from someone. And really, 20th level is so rarely seen, I think manuals and even artifacts are more common in games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cezaryx
    Apr 11, 2022 at 9:46

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