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DnD exhaustion 5e guide

Exhaustion 5e is a potent D&D condition that many TTRPG players may miss - here’s a guide to DnD exhaustion for any who need a refresher.

DnD exhaustion 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a party rest around a campfire

It’s not always plain sailing in a game of D&D – conditions like DnD exhaustion make sure of that. Many of these status effects have fairly clear effects on a player, but exhaustion 5e is one condition that requires a bit more thinking. In fact, many Dungeon Masters, whether they’re seasoned veterans or learning how to be a DM in D&D for the first time, will omit exhaustion completely from their games.

This is because DnD exhaustion 5e can be a harsh, hard-to-remove condition that may overwhelm inexperienced players. However, it can also also be a powerful tool for adding tension or realism to DnD campaigns. Often the true Big Bad Evil of a game is starvation or extreme weather, not some beast or baddie like a DnD Beholder or Strahd von Zarovich. Exhaustion is an excellent storytelling device in the right hands, and it’s worth taking the time to understand.

If you’re after a quick refresher on exhaustion, look no further. We’ve got all the info here. Before we jump in, though, here’s a few extra guides to make playing D&D a breeze: we can help you choose your next DnD classes and DnD races for a premium DnD character build, then even recommend the right DnD character sheets to commit them to.

DnD Exhaustion 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of three DnD party members

What is exhaustion 5e

Imagine what exhaustion looks like in real life, and you’ve already got a pretty good idea of what it means in D&D. Overexerting yourself in some way tests your Constitution, eventually leaving you sluggish, tired, and struggling to function. And too much exhaustion will kill.

As you can imagine, a realism-focused game of D&D is full of exhaustion. You’re in and out of near-constant combat, travelling miles in harsh climes, and only rarely catching a decent night’s sleep. All of these things can cause a character to become exhausted.


DnD Exhaustion 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a white-haired artificer and a metal dragon battling a pursuing humanoid opponent

Exhaustion 5e triggers

Officially, the Player’s Handbook says “environmental hazards, such as starvation and the long-term effects of freezing or scorching temperatures” can cause exhaustion.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide offers advice on some of these exhaustion triggers – for example, a party must succeed on a DC ten Constitution saving throw every hour they’re exposed to temperatures below zero or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (that last one only applies if there’s also no drinking water available). Creatures that spend more minutes in frigid water than is equal to their Constitution score also must succeed on a DC ten Constitution saving throw to prevent exhaustion.

Additionally, the Player’s Handbook says characters require one pound of food per day and one gallon of water (in normal weather) to avoid exhaustion. (There are extra food and drink rules for NPCs in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.) You can go without food for as many days as equal to three plus your Constitution modifier (with a minimum of one). Every day beyond that limit, however, adds a new level of exhaustion.

Water is much harsher – if you drink even half the water you need in a day, you must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw to prevent exhaustion. Anyone with no access to water automatically gains exhaustion at the end of a day.

Other potential exhaustion triggers include rowing or travelling for more than eight hours a day, swimming for more than an hour, or going more than 24 hours without a long rest. Dashing too many times during a chase also causes exhaustion – you can only dash a number of times equal to three plus your Constitution modifier before this happens, and you gain a new level of exhaustion for every additional dash.

Sickening Radiance is currently the only 5e spell that inflicts exhaustion on other creatures, and Tenser’s Transformation can inflict exhaustion on you if you fail a saving throw after casting the spell. DnD Barbarians who choose the Path of the Berserker subclass can also self-inflict a level of exhaustion after going into a frenzy.

DnD monsters can cause exhaustion in some cases. The Monster Manual doesn’t include any monsters with this ability, but they do exist in other DnD books. The list includes the Gingwatzim, the Sibriex, the Corrupted Giant Shark, and the Kalaraq Quori.


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Levels of exhaustion 5e

Exhaustion doesn’t have just one effect on a character. There are six different levels of exhaustion, and each effect stacks rather than replaces the ones lower down in the list.

These are the six levels of exhaustion in D&D 5e:

Level Effect
1 Disadvantage on ability checks
2 Speed halved
3 Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4 Hit point maximum halved
5 Speed reduced to zero
6 Instant death


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How to remove exhaustion 5e

The most cost-efficient way to remove exhaustion is simply to rest. A long rest, plus some food and water, immediately reduces a creature’s exhaustion level by one. If your DM is running a more lenient game, they may also allow short rests or rests without food and water to reduce exhaustion.

The only spell that can reduce exhaustion is Greater Restoration. This can be cast by your party’s DnD Bard, DnD Cleric, or DnD Druid – but using a fifth-level abjuration spell to reduce exhaustion by one level isn’t the greatest trade-off. Some items might also be able to help with exhaustion. This can include a Potion of Vitality, the Ring of Temporal Salvation from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, or a DnD homebrew item of your own devising. But again, we can’t stress just how much more efficient it is to simply rest. Self-care is important, even in D&D.