Azeroth. It’s a name that inspires different feelings in different people. Some may not have heard of it, and scratch their heads. It instills images of panoramic vistas, towering mountains, and arid wastelands in yet others. Others hang their head in sadness at what Azeroth was a number of years ago, and what it’s become today. Still others spend their hours in Azeroth with set goals, especially if they only have limited time.

Azeroth has been a home for me since 2006. It’s is a fictional world, and is the main realm in which the majority of the Warcraft game series takes place – indeed, the recent movie of the same title also takes place in Azeroth, but that’s a separate article.

I started playing World of Warcraft a short time before its first expansion – The Burning Crusade – was released, thanks to an episode of South Park that I watched with my brother. We downloaded the trial, and while he was less than thrilled, I was hooked.

The Moonglade region, on the Kalimdor continent in Azeroth

The Moonglade region, on the Kalimdor continent in Azeroth

My first experiences in the world were disjointed as I tried to figure out things on my own. I didn’t Google anything or look at the hundreds of the resources out there. In short, I treated it just like any other game. It’s not just a game for many people though. Some meet their significant others inside the game. Some make lasting friendships – I have a few friends I made in Azeroth myself. At its core, World of Warcraft is a social experience.

There are two main factions in the game, both with their own unique gameplay experiences; the Alliance, and the Horde. From my first forays into the game, I’ve pretty much only played the Horde, so the rest of this shall focus on my experiences.

If you’re just starting out with World of Warcraft you’ll need to make an account and download the game client. Don’t worry yet about spending money on it if you’re not sure you’ll like the game. You can get started completely for free. There are restrictions on the free account. You can’t send mail, for instance, chat with other players, hold over a certain amount of gold, and can only reach level 20 without purchasing game time. If it’s something you enjoy, however, I personally have found the price of $15 USD a month to be well worth the many hours of enjoyment I’ve received in return.

I won’t take you through creating your account as its fairly straight forward, and there are better guides out there than I can write for it. Once you have the game client downloaded, it’s time to start it up, sign in with the email and password you used to create your account, and you’ll be ready to start creating your first character in Azeroth!

My screens will look slightly different from what you’ll see, as I’ve been playing for quite a few years, have all the expansions to date except the one being released at the end of August, and have numerous characters. If you’re just starting, however, the first thing the game will ask you to do is to pick a realm.

There are four different types of realms available: Normal, PVP, RP, and RPPVP. The acronyms may seem strange if you’re not used to role-playing games, but they’re quite easy. What type of realm you pick, depends on what you want to do with your time in the game.

  1. Normal – A normal realm is… well… normal. There’s no need to worry about another player coming along and killing you unless you’ve specifically set yourself for “PVP” (death isn’t permanent, don’t worry!), no need to worry about using any special lingo, and no need to worry about staying in your character’s persona at all times. If you just want to have fun, do some quests, and not worry about “being” your character, this is the best realm choice for you. I play on the Undermine realm, which is a Normal classed realm
  2. PVP – PVP stands for Player Versus Player. On a PVP realm, your character can be beset by a player from the opposite faction at any point in time outside of the few “safe” cities. If you want to do battles with other players, but still quest and not worry about “being” your character, this might be a good realm choice for you.
  3. RP – RP Stands for Role-Playing. An RP realm is the exact same as a normal realm, with the exception that it’s intended for those that wish to act as their character acts. Playing a surly Dwarf, that might be adventuring because his or her mine was taken over by bandits, and want to act as that character background would? People that are familiar with more traditional role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, would recognize this game mechanic, and might even be more comfortable in such a realm.
  4. RPPVP – Combines both a PVP and an RP realm. It’s Player Versus Player, but with the expectation you would act as your character’s background dictates.

So now you’ve picked a realm to play on, and you’re greeted with the character creation screen. It may appear daunting at first – I know it did for me when I logged in for my very first time, and there were a lot fewer choices then than there are now!

Race and Class selection screen in World of Warcraft

Race and Class selection screen in World of Warcraft

You can choose anything you want to! On the bottom left hand side of the character creation screen, there’s a “More Info” button. Clicking this will show you more about not just the race you choose, but the Class as well. But more on that in a minute. At the very top of the race list, there’s a button that will allow you to choose your gender. The gender is a completely cosmetic choice, as it makes absolutely no difference on the storyline or your abilities

Depending on what expansions, if any you have installed, there are a few choices for race on both sides of the fence.

The Alliance has Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, Gnomes, Draenei, Worgen, and Pandaren as possible choices for a race. It’s ok if you don’t know what they all are. Just read through the “More Info” on the race, and see if the benefits it receives are something that you’d like to have.

The Horde has Orc, Undead, Tauren, Trolls, Blood Elves, Goblins, and Pandaren as possible choices for a race. Yes, Pandaren are in both lists, as they can choose to be either Horde or Alliance as their storyline progresses. Again, the “More Info” button will tell you the benefits for the race, as well as a little bit of their background story.

Some people have a particular faction they favor. Some will only play a particular race. Still others don’t care about faction or race, and will only play a race that can be a particular class. For the purposes of this article, I’ll use the Orc race to go through the process.

After I’ve chosen my race on the left hand side, I can then choose my class. Some of the classes may be disabled, depending on what race you’ve chosen. My new Orc can’t become a Priest, as an example. Choose your class wisely. With the “More Info” button clicked, we can see what each type of class available to us will do. There are three main types of class.

Do you want to stand in the fore, taunting the enemy, protecting your comrades and taking the hits meant for them? If that describes you, tank would be the kind of role you want. Warriors, Paladins, Monks, Druids, Death Knights, or the upcoming Demon Hunter are classes that can be tanks.

Perhaps you want to deal massive amounts of damage to your enemies. Striking either from afar, toe to toe with your enemy, or from the shadows, a damage (DPS or Damage per Second) dealing class is what you want. Warriors, Paladins, Hunters, Rogues, Shamans, Monks, Druids, Death Knights, and Demon Hunters can do melee damage, while Hunters, Priests, Shamans, Mages, Warlocks, and Druids can all do ranged damage.

Are you a lover, not a fighter? Maybe your greatest aspiration is to heal your comrades as they keep you safe. A healing class is definitely the way to go for you if that’s the case. Paladins, Priests, Shamans, Monks, and Druids can all be healers.

You’ll notice that there’s some serious cross over between some of these classes. That’s because some of them can handle multiple roles, depending on gear they pick up over time and the way they train their character. To carry us forward, I’ll chose the Warrior class, and then I get to customize!

Each race and gender has different options that you can customize. From skin color, hair style and color, this is where you make your character unique. You can also choose to give your character a name you make up yourself, or you can allow the game to randomly create one for you. The choice is entirely up to you, just make sure you’re not using your real life name!

Character selection screen in World of Warcraft

Character selection screen in World of Warcraft

After you’ve clicked finish, it will bring you to the character selection screen. If you already have a character, or multiple characters, this is where you’ll be when you first log into the game.  All you need to do is select your brand new level one character from the list on the right hand side, and then click “Enter World” at the bottom of the screen.

A short movie will play, giving you a little bit of a background on what’s going on in the world as it relates to the race you’ve chosen. As the movie nears its end, it will zoom in on your starting area, finally coming to rest behind your head. Normally you’ll see a character – called an NPC or Non Player Character – standing right in front of you with a glowing yellow exclamation point floating over his head… That’s it. You’re now in the wonderful world of Azeroth. There are wonderful, comprehensive tutorials in the game itself that will teach you how to move, fight, use whatever abilities your race and class have, and pretty much everything else you need to know to start adventuring.

My Orc started in front of an NPC Kaltunk; I accept his quest, which is an easy one to start with. I just need to walk a short distance away to another NPC named Gornek – yes, names in fantasy worlds are weird. The quest is turned in to him, and he immediately gives me another quest.

As time goes on, these quests get more difficult, and have longer chains. I might need to run halfway across the continent, or take one of the “flight points” which is basically a flying taxi. Over time my character levels up, and I’m able to do special quests with 5 other players in “dungeons” – specialized areas that have a greatly increased difficulty…. But with greater difficulty, comes greater rewards.

There are many things to do inside Azeroth, and even more to see. As you start out the first thing to do is start questing. Find quests, signified by those glowing exclamation marks above people’s head, and turn them in when they’re completed. This is the fastest way to earn experience points or “XP”, which in turn is how your character achieves greater levels.

As time goes on, you may wish to branch out. Try getting a profession that interests you fairly early in the game. Certain types of professions go together, but you can only have two main professions at any given time. You can unlearn them in favor of getting a different one, but if you decide you don’t like the new profession and go back to the old one, you’ll have to start from scratch.

There are many different professions in the game. Some may be more benefit to certain classes than others. A Mage can only wear cloth armor for instance, so may not want to pick up the blacksmithing profession unless they’re planning on creating and selling plate and mail armor types to the classes that can wear them.

The main professions can be broken down into two subgroups. Gathering and Crafting professions. Certain gathering professions go better with certain crafting professions. For instance, a blacksmith needs smelted ore to work with, so you may not want to pick herbalism as a gathering profession. There are ways to obtain the materials without having that profession, but it can be costly especially for new players.

The main gathering professions are:

  • Mining
  • Skinning
  • Herbalism

While the crafting professions are:

  • Blacksmithing
  • Engineering
  • Jewelcrafting
  • Leatherworking
  • Alchemy
  • Inscription
  • Tailoring
  • Enchanting

If you want to get involved in the economy, you’ll want to pick two of those up early on. There are also secondary skills that you can get, which I also recommend getting early on. Fishing, Cooking, and First Aid are available as soon as you’re able to find a trainer for them, and Archeology and Riding both show up a little bit later in the game. All are highly useful skills.

Maybe playing the economy isn’t what you want to do though. Perhaps you like questing, and even when you reach the highest levels, you want to continue doing that. That’s fine! There’s plenty of high-level repeatable quests called “dailies” that you can do! One caveat: you can only do each one once per day. There’s a lot of them though, so it should be enough to keep you busy!

Are you an explorer by nature? Not only are there incredibly beautiful, panoramic vistas available across the entirety of Azeroth, the Outlands, Northrend, Pandaria, and Draenor, but once you gain flying mounts you can find some really interesting hidden spots in the world as well. Of course, you can find some interesting spots without a flying mount as well, but some of them may be harder to reach.

There are so many things that a person can do in Azeroth. Collecting, crafting, exploring, building, questing, adventuring, becoming part of a guild… I can’t even begin to mention everything available. There is a storyline to the game, but it’s so open that you’re really limited only by your imagination. With 9 different characters on my account currently – not counting my brand new Orc – I haven’t had the same play experience on any one of them as I’ve gotten them to the levels they are at.

This has just barely touched on all the things available for you to do! You can explore on your own; choose your own destiny. Go forth, hero, and explore Azeroth at your leisure! Maybe I’ll see you there.

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