Disclaimer: The DM has never DM'd before, and 2 out of the 3 PC's have never played D&D before. I am the 1 PC who has played before (2 previous groups).
I've just started a new 4E group using Maptools, VOIP, and the D&D Insider tools. Functionally, everything seems to be set up to minimize friction due to communication problems and has been very nice to use.
However, we've played 2 sessions in about 5 weeks for a total of about 7 hours of playtime. 2 of those hours have been burned up due to character creation assistance, leaving us with 5 effective hours of playtime.
We've been in 2 fights so far, for an average of an encounter every 2.5 hours. Each PC started at level 1 and has gained 290 XP, leaving a pace of approximately 58 XP per hour. This leaves us just over 17 hours to get to level 2, and exponentially more for each level.
Keeping in mind that our pace is almost guaranteed to increase due to familiarity with core rules and the other players, doesn't this seem absurdly slow to anyone else? For example, assuming an increased XP/hour pace of 100 XP per hour, it will take us roughly 195 hours or 8 days of play to get to level 10.
We have tentatively planned for 3 hours per session, twice per month, which gives us 6 hours of playtime per month. This means it would take over 2.5 years to get to level 10.
How is this not abysmally slow? Maybe I'm pampered by video games and what-not, but at that point, we would have just reached Paragon Paths, where we are supposed to be finally "powerful". I have to wait 2.5 years to get to that?
Somebody, tell me what we're doing wrong or that I should just give up now.
tl,dr: My 4E group feels very slow. What should I expect from a normal campaign, and what should I expect (in hours) to get from level 1-30?
Wow, for my first post, this got some great answers! I want to thank everyone for the amazing thoughts and suggestions posted.
Since it's been solidified that, yes, this is in many circumstances the normal pace for the game, it seems I may definitely have to scale back my expectations. I love the fact that skill/social challenges give a higher ratio of xp, but I have doubts that my DM is experienced enough to want to try more of them. I don't really want to move from 4E because it feels streamlined, but perhaps it just isn't meant to be fast-paced. However, I recently read an article suggesting it may be worth considering a global increase of 10%-30% on xp to speed things up. I think that may have some merit to it, if the rest of the group will agree.
4e is modeled on approximately 10 encounters/level. So if you are playing 2 encounters/session then you will level approximately once every 2.5 months.
That means that yes it will take you a bit over 2 years to get to L10 playing twice a month and probably longer to reach higher levels as paragon and epic encounters may take longer (higher XP budgets, PC damage doesn't scale as well with monster health at epic etc)
This has been borne out in my experience. My group meets weekly for about 4 hours. We usually get through two combat encounters in a session (or 1 combat and a social encounter or similar). We have been playing for a bit over a year and are nearly at L10.
Theoretically if this math continues (I don't think it scales quite the same way) and you can continue to finish 2 encounters in a session it will take aproximately 150 sessions to get to L30. at 26 sessions/year it will take a bit over 5 and a half years to level all the way to epic.
Here is a breakdown of time taken to Level from 1-30 assuming 2 encounter/session 26 sessions/year at 6, 8, and 10 encounter/level:
This gives you an idea at least of potential different rates at which you can level depending on how challenging your adventuring becomes.