What lies behind the choice to gradually reduce each character’s maximum endurance as you move through each dungeon? I ask because the first dungeon in the game (which is where the game actually starts) will not allow you to leave and recover your characters’ maximum endurance to its normal levels. Which means that you have to try to limit the amount of combat you engage in so that you can complete the thing before your party becomes completely useless. (Not that the game tells you that.) In a way, it’s a pretty harsh introduction.
This is really three questions in one: The endurance mechanic, the exhaustion mechanic, and how they work together in the very first dungeon.
In Frayed Knights, most actions – particularly combat actions, active feats, and spellcasting – cost endurance. There’s no special “mana” pool for magic or anything – it all comes from your personal store of energy. Completely depleting your endurance leaves you vulnerable – your character is not only forced to rest for their next turn in combat to recover endurance, but they are more vulnerable to attacks. Endurance management is key to success in the game. It’s a constant risk / reward factor: You don’t want to blow your wad and overkill at the beginning of the fight, and nothing left over for the end. So you can manage that resource by using less tiring option, like less powerful abilities, magical items, and picking times to manually rest a turn in mid-combat.
Then there’s resource-management in-between fights – the “attrition” mechanic. In older games (particularly D&D), player characters had to take a night’s sleep to recover all spell points. In pen-and-paper games, the mechanic worked pretty well, as combats were slow to resolve and thus relatively rare. You had to be careful about spending your resources between combats, as blowing all your high-level spell slots on the cannon-fodder meant you would have to return to base early and let the bad guys build up their defenses for your return trip. Or you could try and find a safe spot to sleep in the dungeon where you’d be vulnerable. It added an extra layer of strategy and resource management to the game. The player was constantly dealing with these kinds of risk / reward decisions below the surface, and it was a lot of fun. But CRPGs are a different beast from pen-and-paper, and combat could be resolved much more quickly and thus tended to be far more plentiful, and that kind of strict “number of times per day” limitation often proved just as frustrating on one level as it was valuable on another.
But removing the mechanic entirely robs the games of a lot of interesting gameplay and flavor. You lose the surge and retreat rhythm. Players ignore expendable magic items, as there’s rarely any need to rely on them. And perhaps most significantly, it results in an endless stream of boringly similarly challenging encounters: Since there’s zero reason to not unleash on a “lesser threat” with everything you’ve got – as you’ll get it all back again thirty seconds after the fight – they are useless encounters, and should be removed.