Diablo 2 Leveling Guide
If you're new to Diablo 2 or a returning player and looking for the most effective route to level up - look no further! This page will give you most of the information you need to complete the journey in a reasonable and efficient way. I'm writing this guide with the assumption you're an untwinked character without power leveling assistance.
Throughout this guide I will provide you with links to other guides I have written as well which will give you detailed information about things you should do to make your character stronger overall. Up until Nightmare difficulty you can pretty much wear whatever gear you want without encountering something too difficult... but once you get further into Nightmare and especially Hell you'll need to not only have the right gear but the appropriate build for your character.
Important Leveling Tip: One thing you should remember in Diablo 2 at all times is Boss and Unique enemies give 500% EXP. This includes their minions; you can tell a Boss/Unique's minions apart from the rest of the enemies because when you mouse over them it will say 'Minion' below their portrait. Champions give 200% experience.
When speed running the game, Champ/Boss/Unique enemies (for the most part) are the only enemies Speed Runners stop to kill. This is how much more time efficient it is to kill them over regular enemies.
Fastest Leveling Route in Diablo 2: If all you care about is exclusively leveling up then here is the succinct route for you to follow...
Tristram Runs 1 - 15
Tomb of Tal Rasha 15 - 24
Act 5 Quest 5 (Full Level Upon Completion) 24 - 25
Chaos Sanctuary/Baal Runs 25 - 40
(Nightmare) Chaos Sanctuary or Baal 41 - 63
(Nightmare) Act 5 Quest 5 (Full Level Upon Completion)
(Hell) Chaos Sanctuary or Baal 64 - 90
(Hell) Act 5 Quest 5 (Full Level Upon Completion)
(Hell) Any Level 85 Area 90 - 99
As you can see from the list above the route you'll want to follow to level as fast as possible is pretty straight forward. Act 5 Quest 5: Rite of Passage will give you a full level of EXP each time you complete it on a new difficulty (unless your character is too high of a level). You must complete this quest in order to reach Baal but otherwise you can wait to complete it when you reach a higher level and it's more beneficial if you'd like.
Despite the above route being the best leveling route it's unlikely that an untwinked character will be able to follow it. For that reason I have included a more average leveling route below that contains more information about appropriate gear and how to get it while leveling up.
Diablo 2 New Character/First Timer Leveling Route
This route is designed for people who are getting back into the game and are looking for a fast and efficient way to level up.
Levels 1 - 4
Levels 4 - 15
Repeatedly do Tristram Runs
Levels 15 - 17
Act 1 Quest 6 (Kill Andariel)
Levels 17 - 25
Kill Duriel/Complete Act 2 Quest 6
Levels 25 - 26
Act 3 Quest 1 (+20 HP Permanent Reward)
Act 3 Quest 4 (+5 Attribute Points)
Act 3 Quest 3 (Required for progression)
Cruise through Act 3 and complete all of the quests before killing Mephisto. Flayer Jungle is a decent spot to get EXP during this Act as is Kurast Farming.
Levels 26 - 40
The best thing you can do for this level range is to farm Chaos Sanctuary in Act 4 until you're level 35 or so then breeze through all of Act 5 when you're high enough level. If you don't like Chaos Sanctuary then you could also skip most things in Act 5 until you made it to the Worldstone Keep and then farm Baal instead.
If this is your first character and you are struggling with Chaos Sanctuary I recommend you farm Mephisto in Act 3 for as long as you need to in order to get better gear. Additionally you should farm The Countess as much as you can too as you'll need her Runes for Rune Words in a little bit.
Levels 41 - 63
Your goal is to make some Rune Words for yourself and gear up right now so that you can handle Hell. I'd recommend skipping as much of Nightmare as possible, run to each Waypoint and do every quest you want to do while avoiding every enemy possible. If you're not worried about being extremely efficient then feel free to kill everything as you go.
As far as gearing goes, farming The Countess will probably be the easiest and fastest way to gear. The downside of making Rune Word gear though is you'll need to find a compatible piece of armor that has the appropriate open sockets for you to put the Runes in. You can read more about that on the Rune Word pages I link to. The upside of Rune Word gear is it's some of the best gear in the game and it's very easy to obtain in comparison to farming months and probably never seeing an item as good as a Rune Word.
Take a look at the Armor Rune Words, Shield Rune Words, Helm Rune Words and Weapon Rune Words that are available for this level range. Here is another list of Beginner Rune Words which may be useful to you too if you want some really cheap and easy ones.
Levels 63 - 73
Farm The Countess on Hell for Runes
You get the best EXP in Act 1 on Hell from 63 - 73.