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There are a number of magic items in the DMG that set a stat to a certain number if it's not already higher than that number, like the Headband of Intellect, which sets your Intelligence score to 19 unless it was already 19 or higher. A lot of them set the stat to 19 specifically, which might be significant, but the Belts of [X] Giant Strength are 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29 for their respective giants.

There is almost no benefit provided by a score of 19 over a score of 18. (Or 21 over 20, and so on.) Why were these items designed to give an odd score?

Answers should be backed up with statements from the designers explaining their reasons for this odd (pun intended) choice.

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closed as off-topic by DuckTapeAl, HellSaint, Oblivious Sage, user17995, Purple Monkey May 20 '18 at 4:08

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because [designer-reasons] questions are now off topic on this stack. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl May 20 '18 at 3:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl You might want to refer to the meta Q&A when commenting. See bullet 1: Kindly comment on new designer-reasons that these are recently-off-topic questions with a link to this meta. (Altho this is not a new question and Miniman is probably already aware of the meta question, it's useful for other people that are voting for closing or not.) \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 20 '18 at 3:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint There's a link to the meta Q in the tag description, which I thought was sufficient. It's not a new question, but the phrase "It's unnecessary as churn will get us there" is referring to the fact that old questions end up on people's dashboards over time, which is what happened here. I'm not digging for them, I just saw this one randomly. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl May 20 '18 at 3:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl Yeah, I just mention it (being not a new question) because the bullet says to "comment on new designer-reasons... with a link to this meta", but this should apply to older ones as well. I think we should be linking the meta question in the reason to close, as not everyone is used to reading the tag and the meta answer itself tells us to link it in the comment. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 20 '18 at 5:15
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The items set the ability score to an odd number so that there is still an incentive for characters to maximize their primary abilities by gaining class levels.

Imagine you're playing a Wizard, and you find out that a single item can bring your Intelligence up to the maximum of 20. You can spend your Ability Score Improvements on feats or increase other ability scores. Suddenly the only motivation you have to put points into Intelligence is to stay viable until you can acquire a Headband of Intellect. As for the various Belts of Giant Strength, it is possible for a Barbarian to get his Strength up to 24. Once you take that into account, by choosing 21 and 23 as the two initial power levels for the belts, the game's designers seem to be following the same pattern set by the Headband of Intellect and the other items. Set the score high, but not high enough to be optimal. The 5th Edition developers simply do not want you to be able to max out your most important ability with a magic item.

As for why a 19 as opposed to an 18, at least in the case of Strength a 1 point increase can provide a slight benefit in the form of carrying capacity. Also, Strength requirements for armor are odd scores (Chain Mail calls for 13 Strength, Splint and Plate both bring it up to 15). Unfortunately, beyond that, your question isn't really answerable as it calls for speculation into the human thought process. The only ones who really know for sure are the game's designers. Everything else is opinion. I have tweeted Jeremy Crawford regarding this question and will update my answer as soon as I receive a reply.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That...doesn't answer anything. What's the difference between an 18 and a 19? Why do the belts that give a score unattainable by normal means also have an odd number? It kinda seems like you're ignoring my question here. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 10 '14 at 4:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's certainly better, but if you feel my question is un-answerable maybe you shouldn't be answering it? Also, questions about the intent of the game designers are allowed here, and we have some good ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 10 '14 at 4:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 if there's a comment from the answerer stating that they feel the question in unanswerable, then don't answer the question... \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Dec 10 '14 at 7:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac It's about odd vs. even, while the answer seems to be about why they chose numbers lower than those achievable by characters without magic. Your answer does an excellent job of answering why they don't give one more point, but everyone already knows the difference between 19 and 20. The question is about one less, the difference between 18 and 19 - or, for the Belts, 20 vs 21, 22 vs 23, etc... for D&D players since 3.0, we get the title, since we're used to the "odd numbers don't matter, only evens do" mindset ever since 3e introduced the ability modifiers. \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Dec 10 '14 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then I will reverse my downvote to an upvote when and if you get a response to that tweet. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 12 '14 at 0:16
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As far as designer intent goes, I don't have a "smoking gun" statement by Mike Mearls or anyone else, and frankly I think it's rather unrealistic to ask for one. However, I can give you some clues that at least pique further interest.

If you've ever played AD&D, you know that it was far different from both 3rd edition and 4th edition. I think it's safe to say that it's common knowledge that 5e intended to bring back elements of AD&D that made it great, without bringing in the things that made them iterate to a new edition in the first place.

In AD&D, Gauntlets of Ogre Power behaved differently -- they gave you, directly and with no fuss, the actual Strength value of an Ogre, which was 18/00 at the time. In 5e, an Ogre's Strength value is 19. The pattern here is obvious. In fact, it goes further than that. As Jason K. mentioned, the Belts of Giant Strength also have odd-numbered values, just like the monsters. Hmm.

As for "why," well, I can only speculate here, but to me this is a clear attempt to bring some verisimilitude back into the game. What is that? Well, in a word, it's "believable-ness," or the appearance of being true or real. Things that allow you to maintain your suspension of disbelief quite easily. I haven't really played 4e, but in 3 and 3.5e Gauntlets of Ogre Power were a simple +2 Strength enhancement item. This is three things: 1. boring, 2. not balanced well, and 3. nonsensical. Why would a godly Barbarian with 30 Strength benefit from "Gauntlets of Ogre Power?"

Hope this answers your "unanswerable" question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unrealistic or not, that is the requirement for an answer. If you don't have a quote, you should not be answering the question. Answers on this site have to be backed up, and your speculation really doesn't help to answer the question in a meaningful way. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 12 '14 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I should have said "this clearly isn't just speculation, despite my word choice in the question." Blasted time limit. \$\endgroup\$ – Lucas Leblanc Dec 12 '14 at 15:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ The bit about the pattern is interesting, but ultimately only pushes the actual question – why odd values – back to the ogre rather than the gauntlets of ogre strength. Your “why” paragraph is pure speculation with absolutely no objective merit, but it’s the only part that addresses the actual question. Thus, again, you really don’t help to answer the question in a meaningful way. Ultimately, it is OK if the question is unanswerable – that means it should have no answers. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 12 '14 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, my bad. I guess I should have posted the bit about AD&D in the comments and left the speculation out (or maybe summarized it in the comment). Still, to me personally, this is the most logical line of thought for the designers. \$\endgroup\$ – Lucas Leblanc Dec 12 '14 at 15:32

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