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Recently, our party barbarian gained two levels of Exhaustion. As per the rules of that condition (PHB, p. 291), the effect of level 2 Exhaustion is:

Speed halved

The fly spell (PHB, p. 243) has the following effect:

You touch a willing creature. The target gains a flying speed of 60 feet for the duration.

We wondered what the barbarian's speed would have been if fly was cast on him. Which of the above rules would be considered more specific? Would the barbarian be able to fly for 60 feet, or only 30 feet, per turn?

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Their flying speed is 30.

These rules do not conflict, so there's no need for "specific vs. general" silliness. Fly gives you a flying speed of 60, in the same way that, say, being an elf gives you a walking speed of 30. Exhaustion then cuts it in half.

Exhaustion doesn't say whether it applies to all your movement speeds or just walking speed. However, it would be pretty bizarre to be able to swim or climb at full speed when you're so tired or starved that you can't walk at full speed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I totally agree that this is RAW, but it's understandable if someone were to rule that fly speed, at least, was exempt. At least as long as your speed wasn't tied directly to physical exertion. If you had to be flapping your arms faster to go faster, obviously if that character were exhausted they wouldn't be able to as effectively. But if they just need to will themselves to "go", shouldn't really matter how tired they are. \$\endgroup\$ – Ahndwoo Jan 9 '20 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @Ahndwoo here, RAW seems cut and dry but I would probably rule with Cool here and let if slide \$\endgroup\$ – Stickyz Jan 9 '20 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ahndwoo I could see the reason for ruling that way; conversely I'd probably rule the other way because I dislike the way fly makes it trivial to escape from bad situations. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 9 '20 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells Oh, definitely. From a balance perspective it makes perfect sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Ahndwoo Jan 9 '20 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue with this answer though, is the logical implications of magic and exhaustion. Moving while under the Fly spell isn't using your own physical muscles or energy, instead it's the magic of the spell. I think it's still a reasonable interpretation of the RAW to say that the spell supercedes the exhaustion. \$\endgroup\$ – zeel Jan 11 '20 at 19:56
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Exhaustion would prevail

It all comes down to the wording. When we look at abilities that grant additional speeds, they specifically say that you "have" that speed. Since fly says that the creature "gains" the speed, it can be inferred that it means that for the duration of the spell this additional speed should be considered as the character "having" the speed. By this definition, exhaustion's effects should apply to this speed as well.

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