After killing your adversary perhaps the most satisfying part of playing Dungeons and Dragons is leveling. It represents the tangible evidence of your time playing. New abilities become available, old ones improve, and the monsters that used to terrify you suddenly stop being so scary.
It's been my contention throughout this series that Fifth Edition is a love letter to Dungeons and Dragons, so you might be wondering why it's experience progression doesn't mirror any of the previous editions. It's because they're listening to us.
Level 10 - 11 XP: It's by design. Data shows campaigns stop at 10, we're trying to speed up 10+ a bit so groups can reach 20 in a campaign
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) July 10, 2014
After observing the results of survey after survey it became clear to them that a lot of us - whether we had jobs, children, or just went to high school - weren't making it past level ten. Why?
To take a character from level one to 20 in First Edition wasn't something that could be generally done in summer even if you played multiple times a week. Hell I ran a Third Edition campaign which has a markedly quicker progression for two years with weekly sessions, each averaging six hours, and it took us 78 sessions for the first player to break 20 (that's over 468 hours of play). That's a huge level of commitment for everyone involved.
The new edition continues Fourth Edition's tiers of play by breaking up the 1 to 20 progression into four distinct sections. Levels 1 - 4 represent your Apprentice levels and it's designed to have you level each time you play. Levels 5 - 10 represent your Journeyman levels where you level every other session. Levels 11 - 16 represent your Tradesman levels where you've become a powerhouse and you can expect to advance every three to four sessions. Levels 17 - 20 represent your Master levels where progression has slowed further but your challenges are now matters of importance with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Unlike Third Edition where it took my players nearly 40 sessions to advance to tenth level you can reasonably expect to make tenth in 14 sessions. That's absolutely brilliant as it helps eliminate so much of the slog from the game and makes each session an opportunity to experience the fun of advancing in the game.