Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (2023)

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks and have fun!

"A high-pitched howl echoes around you as you continue your trek up the steep mountainside. The bitter winds on your skin and three consecutive days of travel have made you tired. You feel your knees tremble under you with every step forward and threaten to give out at any moment."

Exhaustion in Dungeons & Dragons 5thEdition is a brutal mechanic once you get into it. But it comes with a few complications that make it a bit confusing for newer game masters and players.

What is exhaustion? How does it work? what causes it how to cure it

This article covers everything a beginner needs to know about D&D 5e fatigue rules.

Let's start by explaining what Fatigue is in D&D 5e.

5e exhaustion declared

Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (1)

Exhaustion is a special state in D&D 5e. It represents the physical toll of adventures or magical effects on your player character.

Basically, if your character exerts too much effort or suffers some weird, magical effect, it will become exhausted.

page 291 ofplayer manualdescribes exhaustion:

Some special abilities and environmental hazards, such as starvation and the long-term effects of freezing or scorching temperatures, can lead to a special condition known as exhaustion.

Exhaustion is a fun mechanic. But it's often overlooked because it's a bit complicated, and it can prove tricky to keep track of at times.

For easy reference, the fatigue rules in D&D 5e are broken down into three elements:

  • fatigue levels
  • What causes exhaustion
  • How to fix fatigue

Let's get to the mechanically more solid aspect first; fatigue levels.

Degrees of exhaustion in 5e

Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (2)

Fatigue in 5e is broken down into six progressively harmful levels. Each imposes a new disability on a creature in addition to the previous one. So the more exhausted a character becomes, the less capable they become until they eventually succumb to exhaustion.

See, Fatigue in D&D isn't a once-and-done state like the others. With most other conditions in 5e, you either suffer from them or you don't. For example, you either suffer theattacked stateor not.

Fatigue will progressively get worse if your character doesn't address it.

But what are the different levels of fatigue in D&D?

As I said before, D&D has six levels of fatigue. Each one makes the adventure more and more difficult until the last level when your character dies.

Here's a handy depletion chart for reference.

D&D 5e exhaustion table
degree of exhaustionexhaustion effect
1Disadvantage in skill checks
2Movement speed is halved
3Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4The hit point maximum is halved
5Movement speed reduced to zero

Let's break down each of these so you can see how they affect your character.

Exhaustion Level 1: Skill Checks

The first level of exhaustion in D&D is impressiveDisadvantageon all yoursproficiency tests.

This level primarily affects out-of-combat rolls, since it has no effect on your attack rolls or saving throws. So you do all skill checks at a disadvantage while suffering from level 1 fatigue.

Do you have to do a strength test (track and field) to climb a cliff? Disadvantage. Are you trying to retrieve information about an esoteric tome that your party found using an Intelligence Test (Arcana)? Also disadvantage. You've volunteered to keep watch despite your exhaustion and your GM asks for a wisdom (perception) check? Disadvantage, disadvantage, disadvantage.

That means if you attempt a grapple or escape a grapple effect and the ability doesn't trigger a saving throw, you're at a disadvantage. So, level 1 fatigue can play a role in combat in certain scenarios.

(Video) TIRED of the Exhaustion System? Here's 2 Simple Homebrew Options

Exhaustion level 2: Halves movement speed

The second level of fatigue in 5e halves your overall movement speed.

When you have two levels of fatigue, you move slower. While this will most likely be the most annoying in combat. But it also affects how fast your party moves when traveling.

Moving at half your overall speed slows the party down. When you need to get somewhere fast, you become a burden.

I don't say that to make it sound unfunny. But it presents a unique challenge for your group.

However, second tier fatigue probably affects melee combatants the most. If they can't move fast enough to engage their enemies, they become much less effective.

Fatigue Level 3: Attack rolls & saving throws

The third level of fatigue imposes attack rolls and a disadvantagesave litters.

This fatigue level basically makes every roll your character makesmuchmore difficult.

At this point, your character will be so exhausted that it will work at a much lower capacity in combat or on adventures. All attacks (even spell attack rolls) are rolled at disadvantage. And if they are subjected to an ability, spell, or trap that requires a saving throw, that roll is also rolled with disadvantage.

Also if your character is knocked unconscious and starts makingdeath saves, guess what?You also make deadly saves at disadvantage while suffering level 3 fatigue.

Exhaustion Level 4: Maximum hit points halved

The fourth level of fatigue halves yourshit point maximum.

This level of fatigue doesn't simply reduce your total hit points by half. Oh no it ismuchworse than that.

Reduce yoursmaximalHalf hit points means your character can only heal up to half of their total amount at a time. This is a major blow to any character's survivability. When you have half your total possible health, each hit is that much more dangerous.

Let's look at an example. Even if you got a 4thLevel Barbarian with a Constitution of 18 and you miraculously rolled maximum hit points, you'd have a maximum hit point of 63. With four levels of fatigue, that drops to 31. for a 4thFlat front line, combat-oriented class, that's a huge disadvantage. Also with the damage resistances of the barbarian with theirWutspecial feature.

Fatigue Level 5: Zero movement speed

The fifth level of fatigue reduces your character's speed to zero.

That's it.

If you have delayed recovering from your exhaustion level that far, you lose the ability to move at all. Your character becomes so tired and, well, exhausted that he loses all ability to move on his own.

Obviously this is a big problem for any character. class doesn't matter. And it is the crucial moment since the last stage of exhaustion is the end.

Exhaustion Level 6: Death

The sixth level of fatigue results in a creature's death.

That's the end of it.

No saving throw to stop him. No death saves. No cure.

Once your character reaches six levels of fatigue, he simply dies. The only way to recover at this point is through resurrection magic.

Now remember;Each level of exhaustion connects to the previous one.If you have two levels of fatigue, you are at a disadvantage on all skill checksand you move at half speed.

With that in mind, you might be wondering how you even get to exhaustion levels in D&D 5e. So let's look at how your character can suffer from fatigue.

What causes fatigue in D&D 5e?

Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (3)

Fatigue in 5e rarely results from a spell or ability. Instead, most causes of fatigue come from a creature pushing beyond sanity.

(Video) D&D 5E (Exhaustion Mechanic)

Unlike some other conditions, fatigue doesn't often result from a direct attack on a creature. Yes, there are spells and traits that impose a level of fatigue on a creature. But the most common cause of fatigue occurs during exploration or travel.

However, situations that add levels of fatigue fall into three general categories:

  • adventure
  • Magic
  • monster skills

We'll start with the most common cause of fatigue; Adventure.

Causes of Fatigue: Adventure

Exploration and travel in a D&D world holds more dangers than monsters and traps. Extreme climate, lack of food or water and failure to find adequate rest, all cases of exhaustion.

The most common sources of fatigue in D&D 5e occur outside of combat during adventures or travel.

The funny thing about this mechanic isIt's really up to your game master what causes fatigue. If they feel that a particular choice or foray into an area would cause fatigue, or at least require a saving throw, that's up to them.

However, there are several sources of fatigue that are detailed in the various D&D sourcebooks.

Don't rest
If your character doesn't take onelong rest, they must make a Constitution saving throw or reach a fatigue level.
Lack of food and/or water
If your character does not eat for a time of 3 + his Constitution modifier, he suffers one level of fatigue. Accordingly, your character must drink a gallon of water per day (two gallons in hot weather). If they only drink half of it, you roll a Constitution check. If they drink less than half a gallon, they automatically enter a level of exhaustion.
Travel non-stop for more than eight hours
If your character doesn't take a break and travels eight hours straight, he must roll a Constitution savefor every hour after the first eightand take a fatigue level on failure.
If your character exerts himself beyond his usual abilities during a chase, he gains a level of fatigue. Per page 252 ofDungeon Master's Guide, a creature may use a sprint action equal to 3 + its Constitution modifier multiple times during a chase. But each time they do so, they must pass a Constitution check or reach a fatigue level.
Extreme climate zones
Creatures unaccustomed to extreme climates (frozen tundras, heat-soaked deserts, sky-high mountains, etc.) may experience fatigue from staying in these places for too long. However, if your character has a certain resistance to the natural climate, it would not affect him. For example, tieflings wouldn't be affected as badly by the heat of a desert (unless the heat isparticularlyoppressive) due to their fire damage resistance or Goliath would not suffer thanks to their high elevations of tower mountainsMountain bornCharacteristic.
Swim for more than an hour
If your character swims for more than an hour, he rolls a Constitution check and gains a fatigue level if he fails. The time increases to eight hours if a creature has oneswim speed. Also, swimming at a depth of 200 feet counts as four hours.
Rowing a boat for more than eight hours
As with non-stop voyage, if your character rows a boat for more than eight hours at a time, he must succeed at a Constitution check or reach an exhaustion level.
Ice cold water
Falling into freezing water could inflict fatigue on your character. Well, the caveat is that this would only affect creatureswithoutResistance or immunity to cold damage.
Impact on the environment
Some environments have unnatural effects that can drain your character's vitality.Tasha's cauldron of everythinghas a whole mess of supernatural environmental effects, including haunted areas that drain creatures of literal energy and incomplete demi-planes that cause psychic dissonance. Both of these environmental effects can cause a creature to gain a level of fatigue.
Trapped under rubble
Tasha's cauldron of everythingintroduced a special environmental hazard in the case of avalanches. Eventually, being caught up and trapped in an avalanche causes a creature to suffer from exhaustion due to lack of oxygen. This idea might apply if one gets trapped under some form of debris for a long enough period of time.

Fatigue Causes: Spells

There aren't that many spells that cause fatigue in 5e. But you have a few ways to magically impose fatigue on a creature.

You might think that there are spells that inflict fatigue on a target. But that's actually not the case at all. As a matter of fact,only four spells that cause fatigue in 5e.

Even then, only three report exhaustion as an effect or side effect of their casting. The fourth is more of a conclusion.

I think there are two reasons for this.

First of all, exhaustion is just so useful. It's really only of use to you when your enemy is suffering from multiple levels of fatigue. Just imposing the first level won't do you much good. So you have to take the time to cast a spell repeatedly to make it really worth it.

Secondly, once you've managed to impose multiple levels of fatigue in a short amount of time, it becomes way too overwhelming. Once you put three levels of fatigue on a creature, it has a disadvantage on all of its rolls and moves at half its maximum speed. That's a big disadvantage. So it can't betoFatigue can easily be inflicted with a spell. Otherwise the mechanics will make it way too strong.

With that in mind, you can see why there aren't that many spells that cause fatigue. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.

The four spells in D&D 5e dasmayCauses of exhaustion are:

  • Dream
  • Morbid radiation (wxya)
  • Tensers Transformation (wxya)
  • Wish

Well, two of those are from the core rules of D&D and the other two are fromXanathar's Guide to Everything. So let's go into it in as much detail as possible.

TheDreamSpell is one of the most direct ways to inflict fatigue on another creature. The spell basically allows you to manipulate a target creature's dreams while they are asleep. It can force exhaustion by denying the target creature a full night's sleep, turning their dream into a horrible, horrible nightmare. Since a creature must take a long rest or roll Constitution checks against fatigue every 24 hours, this is the caseDreamSpell is one of the easier ways to inflict Fatigue out of combat.
Morbid charisma
Bad charismacomes fromXanathar's Guide to Everything. Basically, this spell covers a radius of effect. A creature within the area of ​​effect must attempt a Constitution save to cast itradiant damageand prevent a level of exhaustion from being reached. This spell is one of the few ways players have to inflict fatigue in combat.
Tensers Transformation
This spell not so much likeCausedFatigue, as it gives the caster a level.Tenser's transformationcomes fromXanathar's Guide to Everything. This spell allows a caster to enhance their martial ability; They grant them extra hit points, give them proficiency with a range of weapons and armor, and make their weapon attacks more powerful. The downside is that after the spell ends, you must make a Constitution check or reach a fatigue level.
TheWishThe spell doesn't specifically state that you can inflict fatigue on another creature. But since the spell's wording is intentionally open-ended and actually encourages creative uses, it's not too far out of the realm of possibility that you could use it to induce fatigue.

Fatigue Causes: Monster Abilities

Some monsters in D&D 5e have abilities that inflict fatigue on another creature.

As with spells, there aren't that many monsters with exhaustion effects in D&D. Also, none of these creatures are from the Core Rules orMonster Manual, so you'll need to look for additional sourcebooks if you want to access them.

That is, although these creatures have the ability to inflict fatigue, they function similarly to the few spells that do the same. They usually involve some type of role and have a limited number of uses. So it's still a bit difficult to use these creatures as a method to impart fatigue levels to players.

Anyway. Without further ado, here are the five creatures in D&D 5e that can cause fatigue:

Each of these creatures has an ability that either directly inflicts a level of fatigue or has a long-term effect that adds levels over time.

How to remove exhaustion in 5e

Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (4)

In order. Now you know what Fatigue is in D&D and what causes it. But how do you fix fatigue?

While there are a few ways to gain fatigue, there aren't as many ways to cure it. Often your character needs to stop and rest to feel like their old self. However, there are a few faster ways to fix fatigue.

There are three basic ways to remove fatigue in 5e:

(Video) Fixing D&D's Exhaustion Problem (5e)

  • Relax
  • Magic
  • magic items

Even then, these three ways to cure fatigue are pretty limited.

However, let's break down each of these methods, starting with the most traditional method. take a long nap.

Eliminate Fatigue: Rest

Completing a long pause in D&D 5e removes one level of fatigue provided you have enough food and water available.

As simple as that.

All you have to do is eat a good dinner, drink some water, get at least six hours of sleep, and you'll lose a single level of fatigue. Ending a long pause is the least resource-intensive way to fix fatigue. However, it takes a little longer if you have multiple exhaustion levels.

See rules as writtenYou can only finish one long break every 24 hours. That means you can't knock off multiple long breaks over the course of a day. You have to split them up.

So if your character has three or four levels of fatigue, it means that you will have to wait several days for him to return to normal.

Well, all of this assumes you're playing with the standard long rest rules. If you use the optional variantEpic heroism, a long break lasts only an hour. That means youmayComplete several long breaks throughout a day, each eliminating a level of fatigue.

Remove Fatigue: Spell

There are a few spells that cure fatigue. But this is a literal "pair" of spells.Greater RecoveryAndWishcan heal one level of fatigue when cast.

Yes, those are your only ways to remove fatigue with a spell.

Thegreater recoveryThe spell specifically states, "You can decrease the target's fatigue level by one...." so it's actually pretty simple. But like a long break, it's just the only level.

Then there are theWishCurse. The most powerful spell in D&D 5e actually takes things a bit further, stating "You allow up to twenty creatures you can see to regain all hit points, and you end all effects on them described in the larger restoration spell." Well, to me that reads like "You can reduce up to twenty creatures you can see by one level of fatigue" along with all that other stuff. Which is pretty powerful all in all. But in this situation, your GM must decide how this works.

But that's it.

You must have access to eithergreater recovery, a 5thLevel spells available until 17thLevel Constructors or 9DieLevel bards, clerics, druids and celestial warlocks or theWishmagic, a 9ebenSpells available until April 17ththLevel wizards, genius warlocks and sorcerers.

Eliminate Fatigue: Magic Items

There is exactly one magic item that cures fatigue; the potion of vitality.

Yes. If you want to use a magic item to remove your exhaustion, you have an option. A very rare potion at that.

However, the Potion of Vitality is the most effective way to fix Exhaustion in D&D 5e.

The Potion of Vitality is as follows:

When you drink this potion, it will remove any fatigue you are suffering from and heal any diseases or poisons that have afflicted you. Over the next 24 hours, you regain the maximum number of hit points for each Hit Die spent. The potion's crimson liquid pulses regularly with a dim light, resembling a heartbeat.

See,removed the Potion of VitalityATLevels of exhaustion when consumed. Not one level at a time.

So if you have multiple fatigue levels and are lucky enough to have a vitality potion handy, you'd better gulp down this sucker.

Fatigue immunity in 5e

Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (5)

There aren't really any general ways for a player character to gain immunity to the state of exhaustion. But some of5es creature typesand certain monsters are immune to it... meaning a character can gain that immunity, albeit temporarily.

For the most part (with only a few exceptions), player characters do not have the ability to gain immunity to fatigue. However, several monsters are immune to the exhausted condition.

Elementary, undead andconstructedall normally have an immunity to fatigue. Which makes sense since many of these creatures aren't actually "alive," or at least not anymore. So they don't suffer the effects of fatigue because they just can't get tired since their bodies don't function like living beings.

(Video) Exhaustions and Long Rests in D&D 5e | Nerd Immersion

So these creatures can't even reach strain levels, let alone suffer their effects. But what about those niche situations when a player character is immune to fatigue?

Well, it's complicated.

Normally,The only time a player character gains immunity to fatigue is when transformed into a creature with immunity.

So the druidsWilde FormFeature (but only for Circle of the Moon and at a very high level) and spells likepolymorphcan grant immunity to the exhausted conditionby transformation into a suitable being.

High-ranking lunar druids can use theirsWilde FormFunction to transform into elementals. Since elementals are immune to fatigue, the druid effectively has that immunity while transformed.

That last part is the important bit.A character that transforms into a creature with immunity to fatigue only has that immunitywhile transformed. And this works the same way for spells aspolymorphorshape changethat let you transform into other creatures.

See, the thing is, none of those spells or traits mention removing conditions. once yoursWilde Formor the transformation spell ends, you revert to your original form with all your accumulated fatigue levels.

So many monsters in D&D 5e are immune to the exhausted condition. But it's difficult for player characters to enjoy the same benefit.

Frequently asked questions about exhaustion of D&D 5e

Fatigue in 5e: A Complete Guide to Fatigue in DD (6)

Does fatigue carry over to polymorph?

Yes; Fatigue spreads to creatures affected by itpolymorphQuickly.Polymorphdoesn't specifically say it removes conditions, so rules as written, exhaustion is even carried over into the polymorphic form.

Now when a creature transforms into a creature with immunity to the state of exhaustion, it does not suffer the effects of exhaustionwhile transformed. Once they return to their original form, they have maintained their previous fatigue level ever sincepolymorphdoes not specifically say it cures disease.

That said, this is a fairly GM-dependent decision. So ask your GM what his decision will be should the circumstance arise.

Do short breaks prevent fatigue?

In a way yes;short breaksprevent fatigue. Since traveling longer than eight hours continuously requires a Constitution check, stopping for a brief rest for an hour ensures that you don't need to save against fatigue during the journey. That said, short breaks don't remove fatigue levels, so they don'tImmediatelyprevent it.

Do itOtherSpell causes fatigue?

NO; TheOtherSpell does not cause fatigue in D&D 5e.

I've seen quite a few people online claiming thatOthergrants the target a fatigue level when the spell ends. But that's actually not true at all. The spell doesn't mention fatigue at all, so it doesn't cause it when it ends.

Summary of Fatigue in D&D 5e

That was it for fatigue in 5e.

Exhaustion is a special condition that progressively gets worse as you level up your character. As the condition worsens, your throws become penalized, your movement speed decreases, your maximum hit points decrease, and eventually your character dies. Many things cause fatigue, from traveling too long without stopping, not eating or drinking enough, from the effects of a spell to a monster's abilities. And the ways to eliminate fatigue are few and often slow.

ImaximumEncourage game masters to use exhaustion in their games.

Exhaustion is often an afterthought that rarely has much impact over the course of a campaign. But think of the challenge it poses to adventurers.

By showing players that their characters suffer from these more mundane conditions, they then have to consider how hard they are progressing.

Also, there's a really fun and semi-violent homebrew that I've seen a couple of times. Each time a character is knocked unconscious,Give them a level of exhaustion when they recover.

Reaching zero hit points is sometimes scary for players. But it often becomes trivial when the party has a cleric or other class filling the party. When you include consequences beyond unconsciousness, it forces players to think more carefully and consider their actions more carefully.

Do you use fatigue in your game? Leave a comment below with your stories.

And don't forget to follow Role Player's response here and on Twitter@RolePlayRespiteto be notified of new posts!


1. Handbooker Helper: Condition Effects
(Critical Role)
2. What The 5e EXHAUSTION Mechanic Can Teach You | Burnout/Overwhelm | Pt. 1 | Peak D&D
(Peak D&D)
3. The Problem With Healing In D&D (And how to FIX)!
(DnD Shorts)
4. Handling Rests in D&D
(Sly Flourish – The Lazy Dungeon Master)
5. When you’re tired of D&D
(Lunch Break Heroes)
6. How to Fix Resurrection in D&D 5e | DM Guide
(DungeonMaster Josh)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tuan Roob DDS

Last Updated: 04/23/2023

Views: 6072

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tuan Roob DDS

Birthday: 1999-11-20

Address: Suite 592 642 Pfannerstill Island, South Keila, LA 74970-3076

Phone: +9617721773649

Job: Marketing Producer

Hobby: Skydiving, Flag Football, Knitting, Running, Lego building, Hunting, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Tuan Roob DDS, I am a friendly, good, energetic, faithful, fantastic, gentle, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.