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There are several ways to gain exhaustion outside of combat, like forced march, swimming, diseases, but I can find anything related to fighting or combat causing exhaustion. This seems rather odd since fighting a horde of snarling beast seems like it should be one of the most exhausting things possible!

Does D&D 5e have any rules systems that would allow for PCs to gain exhaustion for fighting?

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Not really

Combat itself is a core piece of d&d and there are no RAW rules that give exhaustion by simply fighting.

There may still be monsters whose abilities can give you exhaustion levels.

Additionally, the fact that most combat spells/abilities end after 1 minute suggests an inherent need for resource expenditure for longer combats.

Most combats generally resolve in less than one minute and for a combat to extend for minutes (never mind hours) would be extremely long to manage at the table.

Fantastical Combat

D&D 5e is built around it's combat system that is meant to create these epic and heroic fights for the players. Realism has taken a backseat to simplicity and the goal is for the players to enjoy their experience. While there are RPGs that are realistic, difficult, and have systems in place to make combat much more difficult, 5e is not that RPG. The lack of combat exhaustion is a feature, not a bug for 5e.

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If you don't mind using other RPGs for sources/ideas, this is something you might want to consider. The rpg is RIFTS. 1 round = 15 seconds. 4 rounds = 1 minute. Here are the 2 rules (2nd rule is combat ONLY):

Swimming & Fatigue Note: For humans and similar surface dwelling D-bees, the act of swimming on the surface of the water has the same fatigue rate as running and medium to heavy exertion, especially at great speed or very long periods of time. Swimming underwater with S.C.U.B.A. equipment or other underwater equipment is considered to be light activity, unless extremely active, involved in combat or fast swimming (in which case it is considered strenuous or heavy activity). For most aquatic life forms...underwater activities such as fast swimming, diving, playing and underwater acrobatics are considered light activities and can be conducted for hours without fatigue. Pulling a heavy load and combat is considered medium to heavy activity. Remember that the buoyancy of water reduces the weight of most items by 30% when used/carried underwater. This means the fatigue rate for carrying a heavy load is reduced by 30% or 30% more can be carried at the normal fatigue rate. Characters can also lift 30% heavier weights.

Here's another:

Exhaustion: Humans can work or play at an intense but even pace for 1 hour before he even starts to feel the serious effects of fatigue. Extremely exhausting tasks such as running full tilt without pause or fierce hand to hand combat can be done for a full 20 minutes before the person becomes tired and needs to rest or suffer from exhaustion. Exhaustion penalties are the same as humans: -2 Speed; -2 to initiative; -2 to damage (hand to hand/melee); -1 to strike, parry and dodge. DOUBLE PENALTIES for each additional 15 minutes without appropriate rest. Humans recover in about 30 minutes of rest or light work.

Hope this helps.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Usually, we don't mind getting a different approach to things, but this answer could be greatly improved by showing how you used this in a DnD-5e game? Can you convert the answer so that readers don't have to firgure out what exactly to do with the quotes? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jun 27 '17 at 7:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Especially since d&d already has it's own round timing you would have to override, which would affect a lot of things like spell durations, more info on how to actually integrate this would be interesting… \$\endgroup\$ – StarWeaver Jun 27 '17 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also note that exhaustion effects within RIFTS don't kick in for an hour before feeling those effects. An hour of combat in 5e is 600 rounds. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 27 '17 at 14:29

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