Can anybody come up with a good real-world reason to have >15 partitions on one device?
It's needed if you want many OSes on the same machine for testing and cannot stand more noise from additional drives. Don't forget that BSD subpartitions (disklabel) also count in Linux as partitions. Imagine installing Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD on the same machine in the default configuration, i.e. with separate swap and /usr partitions. That will put you very close to the limit.
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