Hopefully by now you've picked your starting class, but if not, here's the guide for you. Once you're in the world, though, what next? How do you maximize your experience point gain and make your way to the current level cap of 50 as quickly as possible? Well, there are lots of ways to go about it. Let's take a look at a few.
The Main Scenario
The centerpiece of Final Fantasy XIV is the Main Scenario quest, which you're introduced to as soon as you start. This long chain of quests, marked by an exclamation mark surrounded by a meteor symbol (as opposed to the usual "Q") will take you all the way from level 1 up to level 50, and will give you a grand tour of the whole world in the process. When working your way through your first class, the Main Scenario is paced in such a way that if you go where it tells you to and complete all the sidequests in that location before continuing, you'll rarely have to "grind" to be eligible for the next steps.The Main Scenario is also the main way through which you unlock dungeons and trials, which we'll come onto a little later
Everywhere you go in Eorzea, people need stuff doing for them. As noted above, the Main Scenario will take you to level-appropriate areas at a good pace, so take the opportunity to complete all the sidequests in the area before moving on. These are mostly fairly straightforward affairs that require you to kill a certain number of beasties or gather a certain number of items, and tend not to take all that long -- plus they can give you an interesting bit of insight into what's going on in the various parts of Eorzea.
Don't neglect your class quests! They pop up every five levels in your class' guild in your starting city, and not only do they have their own storylines to follow, but they also unlock special abilities in many cases. In some special cases, they can also score you some unique items you can't get any other way -- such as the quest to get the Unicorn mount for level 30 Conjurers.
At level 30, your original class quest storyline will have wrapped up and it'll be time to move on to your Job quest. Someone in your class' guild will offer you a quest with a requirement that you get a secondary class to 15 first; once you've done this, completing the quest will provide you with a Soulstone that unlocks the Job version of your class. Once you've done this, a new Job quest storyline will begin that will take you all the way to 50 and eventually provide you with your first set of endgame gear -- your "artifact" or "AF" armor.
Unlocked at level 10, these four-player mini-challenges take a matter of minutes to complete, but are a good means of learning and practicing the skills you'll need to take on other party-based challenges in the game. The first time you complete them, they're worth a decent amount of XP, too, so be sure to work through them when you have the chance. New ones are unlocked every five levels, so it's in your interests to complete them as you level rather than waiting to beat them all at level 50.
Also unlocked at level 10, Levequests are simple, timed, repeatable quests that are a good source of XP and gil income for solo players. New levequests are unlocked every five levels, and can either be picked up from the Adventurer's Guild in one of the main cities or from local Levemetes in the smaller settlements dotted around the maps.
There are only a few different types of Levequests, and you'll eventually come to recognize them by their distinctive "cards" that appear when you're browsing them. Some require you to simply kill a certain number of monsters; others require you to patrol waypoints; others still require you to gather items from one type of monster and use them on other types of monsters. Pay careful attention to the objectives when you start a new Levequest, and be sure to pick ones appropriate for your level, since you have a limited allowance of how many you can complete. This regenerates every few hours.
Levequests are indisputably the best way for Disciples of the Hand and Land -- crafters and gatherers respectively -- to level quickly, since they tend to have very simple objectives. For battlecraft classes, they're better served for scoring that last little bit of XP to reach the next level rather than relied upon.
Every 10 levels, you'll unlock a new rank in your Hunting Log, so long as you've completed the previous one. Each rank of the Hunting Log has 10 entries, each of which task you with defeating a certain number of specific enemies. Highlighting an entry tells you the zone and rough area they can be found in, but tracking them down is up to you. If you really can't find them, don't be afraid to ask the rest of the zone in /shout chat if they've seen them -- or ask your Free Company if you're a member of one.Completing a single entry in your Hunting Log nets you a small XP bonus. Completing an entire rank gives you a big XP bonus.
Once you reach level 15 in at least one class and have completed the main scenario quest "Call of the Sea" -- it comes after your starting city's quest that sends you to visit the other two cities for the first time -- head along to the Drowning Wench tavern in Limsa Lominsa and speak with I'tolwann. After a simple quest, you'll be rewarded with a Challenge Log, a checklist of weekly things to do, many of which offer XP rewards.
FATEs are the blue circles on the map -- public mini-quests that require cooperation from anyone who happens to be in the area. The icon that appears atop a FATE determines what type it is -- crossed weapons indicates a large battle with lots of enemies; a scowling face indicates a boss encounter; a bag icon indicates something where you'll have to collect and drop off items. Pay attention to the objectives that appear in your Duty List at the side of the screen when you enter a FATE area.
At present, dungeons are the best means of earning XP quickly. Single monsters in dungeons tend to be worth about ten times the XP of one you beat in the field -- though, of course, they're considerably stronger, too, and require a party to defeat. Boss encounters tend to be worth even more XP -- and completing a new dungeon for the first time earns you a one-time XP bonus than can be substantial when you're working your way to 50 for the first time.
In your 40s, you may find your rate of levelling slowing down a bit as quests get harder to find. Now's the time to unlock the Daily Beastman Tribe quests. These begin at the Ul'Dah and Gridania Grand Company headquarters, and eventually lead you to the Sylph and Amal'jaa communities near the Hawthorne Hut in the East Shroud and near Little Ala Mhigo in South Thanalan respectively.
Finally, note that when you switch to a new class, your XP gain for the new class is accelerated depending on its current level disparity between itself and your highest level class. If you've got one class to level 50, you can enjoy a 50% XP gain for all future classes -- 100% if you also have a Rested bonus active at the time. These bonuses also stack with those from items such as the preorder bonus Mog Cap, making levelling a second class to 15 -- for upgrading your class into a Job, say -- a remarkably rapid process.