The video above the contents section of this guide is not a guide video; it's a demonstration of what you're reading now—the actual guide. The video's long because I show the entire preparation / leveling processes in real-time and it contains plenty of unscripted commentary.
With that said... on with the guide!
There are a lot of combat classes to level up in Final Fantasy XIV. Any experienced player will tell you that the single best way to level up is by doing your daily Leveling Roulette, which places you in a random dungeon with 3 other players for a massive amount of EXP.
But you have to be at least level 15 in order to even attempt the first dungeon in the game, and you unlock the Leveling Roulette at level 16—after you've unlocked your second dungeon.
For the most part, leveling up your first class is pretty easy—you have a bunch of Main Story Quests (MSQs) to complete that provide a ton of EXP... but you can only do them once... so when you eventually decide to level up one of the other 8 combat classes and find yourself with no MSQs left... what do you do?
Answering that question was my singular purpose for making this guide.
I created a new character and spent several hours testing out the most popular ways to level up from 1-15. In the first half of this guide—the Popular Leveling Methods section—I share my thoughts and observations on all of these methods. This should give you a basic understanding of all of your best options.
The second half of the guide—the My Leveling Method section—contains my actual preferred method for leveling up to 15. Feel free to skip directly to that if you're already pretty familiar with FFXIV.
Like I said, doing your MSQs will reward you with a LOT of EXP. Not only that, but you have to complete your MSQs to get access to a lot of the game's features, such as new dungeons, raids, a mount you can ride around on, and even the ability to alter your character's appearance.
But the downside to MSQs is, unfortunately, you can only do them once, so they're only good for leveling up one class.
Before I do my MSQs, I usually make sure that I change to one of my least favorite classes first.
Personally, I play (and level up) every class in the game. If you're only interested in playing and leveling up classes that you like—which is totally fine—then this note doesn't really apply to you.
Most MSQs aren't very involved; they usually just require you to run from one place to another, talk to an NPC, or sit through a cutscene. If you're going to get a big chunk of EXP for not really doing all that much, why not accept that EXP on a class you don't like playing so much?
And when it's time to complete that dungeon you just unlocked, you can switch to a class that you find more fun.
You unlock the Hunting Log upon completing your starting class's level 1 class quest. It's basically just a big list of enemies to kill.
Each of the 8 starting classes (and Rogue) gets its own Hunting Log. The class-specific logs each have 5 ranks to go through, and you get access to higher ranks by completing lower ranks reaching certain levels. These logs reward you with pretty decent chunks of EXP.
Each of the three Grand Companies you can join have their own Hunting Logs as well. These logs only have 3 ranks to go through and they reward you with Grand Company seals instead of EXP.
Completing your class-specific Hunting Logs are a great source of EXP at very low levels.
FATEs are basically timed quests that randomly appear outside of towns.
Not only are FATEs a great source of EXP at low levels, but because they're open for anybody to join (you don't even have to be in the same party), nearby players often flock to them to complete them very quickly.
The only downside to FATEs is that, because they appear randomly, on their own, they're not the fastest, most reliable way to level up. This is especially true for players who have yet to unlock their Chocobo mounts.
Palace of the Dead (PotD) is a randomly generated series of rooms filled with enemies and traps that you have to progress through. You can progress through it alone or in a party of up to 4 people.
There's a lot I could say about PotD, but this is a guide about leveling up from 1-15. As a means of doing that, I don't recommend PotD at all. For one thing, compared to other methods, leveling up from 1-15 via PotD is very, very slow. Also, if your entire party dies (or—if you're going solo—you die), then you get thrown out of PotD and lose all progress AND EXP that you gained inside.
That said... I actually really enjoy PotD. It's great for leveling up at higher levels and, if you can find 3 other people to join you, it can be a lot of fun.
But, anyway... as for leveling from 1-15 by doing PotD... nope!
Leves are basically quests that you can accept over and over again. Battlecraft leves are leves specifically for combat classes.
Completing leves gets you a LOT of EXP, and because you can re-accept them immediately upon completing them, that means you don't have to run around the map looking for leves to complete.
The downside to leves is that every leve quest costs a leve allowance to accept. You automatically accumulate 3 leve allowances every 12-hours (in real-time). Open up your Journal menu and look in the bottom-right corner. Chances are, if you've been playing for a little while, you've already saved up some allowances without even realizing it.
If you wanted to reach level 15 by doing ONE and ONLY ONE thing, then you should just do leves that are appropriate for your level. According to my tests, leves are the single fastest way to level up—especially between levels 10-15.
Leves are great, but the actual fastest, most efficient way to reach level 15 is to do a combination of things, as you'll see in a bit.
Guildhests are basically training exercises that you complete with 3 other players. They're great practice for new players who are still learning how to play the game, and each of the 14 unique guildhests rewards you with a pretty decent little chunk of EXP the first time you complete them with each class.
One downside to guildhests—and dungeons, by the way—is that you have to queue for them. That is, you have to wait in line for the game to place you in a party with 3 other people. If, for example, you want to join a guildhest as a DPS class, and there happens to be a lot of other DPS players already in line ahead of you—which is often the case—then you could be waiting a while.
The other downside to guildhests is that you only get decent EXP when you complete them for the first time with every class. In other words, it's more or less worth it to complete each of the 14 guildhests once on every class, but that's it.
So, they're great for the practice; not so much for leveling up.
To be honest, I never see people recommending doing normal quests to level up. For new players who don't already know, normal quests—that is, quests with this icon:
...are really bad sources of EXP.
They can provide a little extra lore and context for your MSQs, and some of them give you some pretty decent, free gear, but that's about it.
I rarely do normal quests.
When you see quests with this icon:
These quests unlock things like dungeons, raids, class skills, your Chocobo mount, and a ton of other things.
Incidentally, as you level up, you'll unlock class quests with this icon as well. Make sure you do all of these because many class quests reward you with very useful class skills that you can use while fighting!
All right, that's enough about all of the things that you COULD do... now let's get into what you SHOULD do.
First off, here's the TLDR for this guide:
Before you start your epic killing spree, here are some very important things you can do to make this all go by MUCH faster:
If you haven't done your Recruit-a-Friend (RAF) stuff... or if you have no idea what that is, you should watch this video immediately:
It's very easy to do and you get a lot of really useful things from it, including a hat that's wearable by all classes that boosts your EXP by 20%.
After you've gotten all of your RAF stuff out of the way... before you think about leveling up all of your other classes, you really should focus on leveling up one class first—preferably, to level 30.
As you level up one class, you'll unlock various things that will make leveling up all of your other classes MUCH easier:
Also, leveling up one class ahead of time will give you some time to stock up on leve allowances—in case you haven't already.
Once you've unlocked all of that, you're just about ready to start actually leveling up. There are some very cheap items that you should buy first, and you can find these items in any of the three starting towns.
Here's what to get:
Buy a weapon, body armor, gloves, belt, pants, and shoes.
If you don't have a Friendship Circlet—the EXP-increasing hat I mentioned earlier—also be sure to pick up a hat.
All of the gear you buy should be level 10 or slightly below level 10.
If you're leveling up a tank class—Gladiator (GLA) or Marauder (MRD)—then be sure that you ONLY buy gear that's specifically for tank classes:
(Also, Lancers / Dragoons can wear certain heavy armor, so keep an eye out for that when gearing up those classes, too.)
Tank gear has significantly more defense than standard "Disciple of War" gear, which is reserved for classes like Archer and Rogue.
A tank's role is to protect the rest of their party by directing enemy attacks towards themselves (and away from everyone else) as much as possible. That means that defense is by far the most important stat for tanks.
You should always, always use tank-specific gear when playing tank classes.
Food provides stat boosts, but the stat increases you would get out of the food you have available to you at this point is almost completely negligible... but they do give you a tiny 3% EXP boost, and they do last a whole 30 minutes... and Boiled Eggs only cost 5 gil each, so... why not?
Be sure to pick up some Potions (or Hi-potions, preferably), too. You'll use these to heal yourself with when your HP starts to get a little low. How many you wind up using ultimately depends on how you play your character, but I would recommend buying about 30 potions or so—just to be safe.
The Market Board is where you go to buy items from other players.
I VERY rarely mention the Market Board when writing guides because Market Board prices fluctuate so much and vary heavily from server to server blah blah...
...BUT! I often see some incredibly nice people (in my server, at least) selling Potions and Hi-potions for super cheap, and I feel like it would be a disservice to new players not to mention this:
It's worth checking!
If you've unlocked the ability to fight alongside your Chocobo, be sure to pick up some Gysahl greens from one of the three NPCs below:
Use one outside of town to summon your Chocobo for 30 minutes. Like food, you can use two of these to increase the duration to a full hour.
Altogether, all of this stuff should only cost around 4,000 gil.
And that's it! Once you've finished buying everything, you're finally ready to start actually leveling up.
As I mentioned before, for your first 10 levels, you're going to clear Rank 1 of your class's hunting log while simultaneously completing nearby FATEs.
But you shouldn't just go through your Hunting Log as it appears in-game; that would have you teleporting between maps far more than necessary. I found it to be really slow and inefficient, so I decided to put together my own custom Rank 1 Hunting Logs.
The custom logs map out the best possible route to take to clear the entire log as quickly and efficiently as possible. I've made custom Rank 1 Hunting Logs for each of the 9 starting combat classes that begin at level 1:
While you go through your Hunting Log, remember to keep an eye out for nearby FATEs. With a little luck (and a LOT of bonus EXP), you should reach level 10 (or be close to it) by the time you finish with Rank 1 of your Hunting Log.
If you don't reach level 10 by the time you finish the log, that's okay. In the next section of this guide, you're going to head over to a particular area depending on your class. Head over there early and keep doing nearby FATEs until you do reach level 10.
Once you reach level 10, be sure to equip all of the gear you bought earlier.
Now that you're all geared up, you're ready to start the next phase of this process: battlecraft leves and FATEs.
Depending on the class you're leveling up, go to the following place:
Once you're there, first check to see if there are any nearby FATEs for you to complete. If not, find the levemete NPC and accept all four level 10 battlecraft leves available to you.
Open your map and head to the closest green circle on it—these are where your leves will take place. Once you reach your first leve, open your Journal menu, find your leve near the bottom, and then click on the Initiate button. You'll be able to adjust your difficulty next. I recommend setting it to +4 (the maximum setting) to get the most EXP. If you find that +4 is too difficult, try the leve again and lower the difficulty.
Each leve has its own unique objectives to complete: some require you to kill a bunch of things, some require you to specifically not kill things, some require you to gather items, etc.
Don't just go around killing everything with a little gray rectangle over it; make sure you read what your objectives are and complete those as fast as possible. Avoid unnecessary fighting whenever you can.
(Check out the last minute or so of the leveling demonstration video at the top of this guide to see what I mean.)
Once you finish a leave, you'll get a prompt asking if you want to return to accept your reward. Only return once you've finished all 4 leves so that you can collect the rewards for all of them at once.
Accept 4 more leves and repeat this process until you reach level 15.
Also, keep an eye out for FATEs and do them in between leves whenever you can.
According to all of my testing, this is the fastest, most efficient way to reach level 15.
Congratulations! You're done! You've reached level 15!
That's the end of the guide!
...No, it isn't!
Now that you're level 15, here are some tips on what to do next:
First off, remember that, at level 15, you unlock Hall of the Novice training exercises. There are unique exercises—and free gear with REALLY good stats!—for tank classes, healer classes, and DPS classes.
If you haven't gone through the exercises for your class's specific role (tank, healer, or DPS), you should head over to your Adventurers' Guild and do them immediately... ESPECIALLY if you've just finished leveling up a tank or healer class.
If you have no idea how to tank or heal in a party with other people, DO THE HALL OF THE NOVICE TRAINING AND PAY ATTENTION OR ELSE EVERYONE WILL HATE YOU IN DUNGEONS!!
Nah, it's really not all that scary. You don't have to play your class perfectly; just make sure that you understand the basics of your role and know what all of your skills do.
Speaking of skills, before you jump into a dungeon on that shiny new level 15 class, be sure to go back to your class's instructor and catch up on all of your class quests. The level 15 quest reward will include some skill that will help you out in dungeons.
Also, remember guildhests? They're great practice for dungeons.
Once you're done with all of that, you're ready to start doing dungeons. At level 15, the only one you can join is the first one—Sastasha. It's pretty easy, but if you're feeling nervous, just let your party know that you're new, listen to their advice, and everything should be fine.
When I first started playing FFXIV, the ONLY class I was really interested in for a long time was Gladiator—a tank class. Whenever I encountered a new dungeon for the first time, I ALWAYS made a point to let people know that I was new and they were ALWAYS cool about it, even if I messed things up and got everyone killed!
After you've finished your first Sastasha run, you should be at level 17 or 18, and, if you have at least one other dungeon unlocked, you'll finally have access to the single best way to level up in the entire game—the daily Leveling Roulette.
...And that's the end of the guide!
If you have any questions, as always, feel free to contact me anytime.
Good luck and have fun! =)