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World of Warcraft is a huge and complex game with millions of players. A great many websites provide an enormous amount of detailed information on even the smallest details of the game, but this can be overwhelming for new players. I've written this guide to condense the information new players need to get started and answer the common questions that come up as a novice starts to explore the game environment. I hope you find this useful!

The Basics

Your first character! You can have multiple characters on your game account, but for each one you'll need to make a few decisions right at the start.

  • You need to think of a name for your character -- the game will make a name suggestion, but the actual name choice is yours.

  • You must decide which faction you will be a part of: Alliance or Horde.

  • You must pick a game 'server' on which your character will play. There are more than 10 million people playing World of Warcraft, but they cannot all 'see' each other -- that would be really crowded! There are hundreds of named game 'servers' located around the world in different time zones and languages, and you get to pick which one you're on. More on picking a game server in a later section.

  • You must pick a race and a class. Not all races can become all classes, so do a little research first! See the next section for information on the races and factions -- I'll talk about the classes here.
The decision of class and race you want to be depends in part on what style of play you want to pursue. Some players enjoy fighting up-close (melee combat), while others prefer to fight a distance with spells or projectile weapons (ranged combat). You may also want to gain the ability to heal friendly players in combat (healing), or the special ability known as 'tanking' to draw the attacks of powerful foes and endure the attack while other members of your group concentrate on inflicting damage. Your ability to perform these styles of play depends in part on the class and race you choose.

There is a nice page at that describes each of the classes. Briefly:

  • The Mages are a 'ranged' spell-casting damage class that can also create transportation portals to the capitol cities and other places like Dalaran which is a neutral city.

  • The Priests can heal and also do 'ranged' damage. They gain the ability to use the 'power word' spells to aid other party members.

  • The Warlocks are a damage class. They get help from minions like an Imp or a Felhunter to spread the damage around.

  • The Hunters are also a ranged weapon damage class that get a variety of combat pets over which they have direct control.

  • The Death Knights are a special class. While most classes start a level 1 and must work their way up to higher levels to gain skills and abilities, the Death Knights start at level 55. The catch is that you must already have a level 60 character on your account in order to create a Death Knight -- so not for new players. Death Knights can command the dead as minions, freeze their foes with ice, and inflict weakening diseases.

  • The Druids are multi-talented with broad powers. They can be equipped to tank, heal and do close or ranged damage. They also learn the ability to transform into animal forms for specialized skill enhancement: a cat form for battle, a bear form for tanking, a travel form for speed, an aquatic form for swimming, and eventually a bird flight form. Druid healers can even turn into a walking tree!

  • The Warriors carry huge weapons, wear heavy armor, and are brutal close-combat fighters. They are suitable for both 'tanking' and direct combat.

  • The Shamans are also generalists. They can tank, do damage, and heal. They also get a get a wolf travel form, similar to the Druid ability.

  • The Rogues are a 'sneaky' close damage class. They can drop into a 'stealth' mode that allows them to creep past enemies unseen, and to pop surprise attacks on multiple enemies. A fun class, and very effective in player-on-player combat.

  • The Paladins are very useful in group activities such as dungeons. They have to ability to 'bless' the group to improve both damage abilities and defensive capability. They can also fill-in for other class types when the situation calls for it. Excelling at tanking, they are also capable of close damage, and they can even perform emergency healing.

  • Last but not least are the Monks. They are the newest class in the World of Warcraft, becoming available with the recent 'Mists of Pandaria' expansion pack. They can do melee damage, heal, and tank. Specialists in bare-handed combat, the Monks can build 'chi' energy to unleash fearsome burst attacks.
'WoW Insider' has an interesting discussion about the best class for new players that you might find useful: Breakfast Topic: The best class choice for new players.

Races of the Alliance and Horde

There are two major factions in WoW: the Alliance and the Horde. The two factions have incompatible languages, cannot talk to each other, and hate each other's guts! Players on 'PvP' servers have the option of attacking members of the opposing faction on sight in most areas of the WoW realm.

The Horde has four major cities: Thunder Bluff, Silvermoon, The Undercity and the capitol city of Orgrimar. The major Alliance cities are Darnassus, Ironforge, Exodar, and their capitol city Stormwind. Two new capitol cities have recently opened in the 'Mists of Pandaria' expansion: the Shrine of the Two Moons for the Horde and the Shrine of Seven Stars for the Alliance. There are also major neutral cities open to both factions in Outland (Shattrath) and Northrend (Dalaran). Each of the major cities have auction houses, banks, supplies and class trainers. They also offer transportation options to other major cities.

Each race has unique 'racial' traits that can complament their performance when matched to appropriate class types. A full listing of racial traits and the classes available to each race is available at Battle.Net.

The Races of the Horde:

  • The Tauren are a race of humanoid cows that stand upright almost 9 feet tall! The Taurens’ home is the city of Thunder Bluff.
  • The Blood Elves, whose capitol city is Silvermoon City, have a natural resistance to magic spells.
  • The Orcs and Trolls share the capitol city of Orgrimar. The Orcs can fly into a rage that increases their attack power for a short time, and the Trolls have a natural healing factor that constantly replenishes their health, even when they are engaged in combat.
  • The Undead (also known as The Forsaken) are a zombie race who live in the Undercity. The Forsaken can replenish their health by consuming dead bodies.
  • Finally there are the Goblins. Their capitol city was destroyed in a volcanic eruption that left them homeless! Goblins are great negotiators, and they always receive a discount from vendors.
The races of the Alliance:
  • The alien race called the Draenei start in the city of Exodar -- built from the remains of their spacecraft.
  • The elusive Night Elves call the city of Darnassus their home. They struggle to restore their immortality.
  • The Dwarves and Gnomes share the city of Ironforge, carved into the side of a mountain.
  • The young race of Humans have the starting city of Stormwind. They excel with swords and maces.
  • The cursed Worgen are a human/wolf hybrid from the forbidden Gilneas City. Stormwind is their adopted home.
Neutral races:
  • The Pandaren call the entire continent of Pandaria their home. Pandaren start out neutral, and can choose to align with the Alliance or Horde upon reaching a certain level of experience. The Pandaren love food and drink, and gain extra benefit from their consumption.

More About Game Servers

The World of Warcraft is a big place, but if there was only one 'world' with ten million players you'd be packed elbow-to-elbow with other players all speaking different languages and running different time zones. To keep the population density at a reasonable level and keep connection lag time to a minimum, there are literally hundreds of game server computers scattered around the world -- each one almost completely separate from the others. A player in one server (or 'realm') cannot interact with a player on another server in the course of general gameplay, so if you want to play with a real-world friend you'll need to find out which server they play on and base your character there.

Each server has all the same elements, quests, dungeons, and topography as all the others, but there are some differences. Servers run on local time zones and languages, so if you aren't fluent in Russian you should stay off the Russian servers! Servers also come in two 'flavors':

  • Player vs. Player (PvP) -- these servers emphasize the hostility between the Alliance and Horde factions. Players are continuously vulnerable to attack by players from the other faction, unless in a designated 'neutral' town or city, where the guards will break up any aggression. This adds a certain 'danger' aspect to the gameplay as there may be an enemy faction player lurking nearly anywhere in the wilderness. Some players find this exciting, while others would rather concentrate on other game elements without this distraction.

  • Player vs. Environment (PvE) -- these servers downplay faction hostility and let players concentrate on questing and other gameplay without the need to keep an eye open for ambushes. You can 'flag' yourself as available for inter-faction random combat in a PvE realm if you get bored, but you must then find another flagged player upon which to test your combat skills.

Note: don't confuse this realm option with the ability to challenge a member of your own faction to a 'duel'. That can be done in either realm type, and your participation in a duel is entirely voluntary.

In addition to the two server types above, there are also a few 'Role Play' (RP) servers. RP servers come in both PvP and PvE flavors, and the difference is entirely in how the players communicate. On a RP server it is important to 'stay in character' and address other players as though they really are what they appear to be in the game. If you like the fantasy elements of the game you may be happy on a RP server.

I Have a Character - Now What?

Your new character will be placed in a friendly 'starter village' based on your race. The game manual will fill you in on how to move and interact with other characters and the environment. Feel free to wander around and explore.

Don't worry much about getting yourself killed -- it happens all the time. You'll find yourself in ghostly form in a graveyard near your corpse. You can walk back to your corpse and pop back into it, or if that isn't convenient you can ask the angel-like being in the graveyard to resurrect you on the spot. There is a small penalty for that service, but you'll figure that out. The game will lead you on quests that will guide you in exploring and progressing in the game.


What is a profession? A profession is a skill that players can learn and develop to higher levels over time. Every profession starts out at skill level 1 and can be developed thru practice to a maximum level (current maximum is 600). As your skill increases, you become able to perform more difficult tasks related to your profession.

You may have only two major professions at one time. You can decide to abandon one or both of your professions and start a new one, but you will lose your experience permanently and will start all over at level 1!

It is common to learn a gathering profession that ties into your production profession by allowing you to obtain your own materials. Some races have special bonuses in certain professions, so consider that when choosing.

Gathering professions (major professions) obtain raw materials for the production professions:

  • Herbalism allows players to gather herbs and motes –- valuable items used by Alchemists and Inscriptionists. There is some potential for money making.

  • Skinning allows players to skin dead animals for the leather used by the Leatherworking profession. Good money maker.

  • Mining teaches players to gather ores and stones which are raw materials for the Blacksmithing and Jewlecrafting professions. Fair money potential
Production professions (also major professions) use the materials obtained by the gathering professions:
  • Alchemy can create potions that enhance player performance and provide rare possessions, like the 'Vial of the Sands' which teaches players to summon the exotic Sandstone Drake mount.

  • Inscription creates scrolls useful to gameplay and rare items like the Darkmoon Cards.

  • Leatherworking uses the leather obtained by Skinners to create the leather armor worn by Rogues and Druids, armor enhancements, and some amusing game items.

  • Jewelcrafting allows players to cut gems to enhance the performance of premium armor and weapons.

  • Blacksmithing teaches players to create melee weapons and metal plate and mail armor used by the hardcore fighting classes.

  • Engineering can enhance weapons, create some bombs, and produce mechanical riding and flying mounts. You can also make some goofy items to play around with. Engineering does not require the raw materials from any specific gathering profession.

  • Enchanting is the other profession that does not require materials from the gathering professions. Enchanters can create sought-after magical enhancements for weapons and armor.
Although you can only learn and practice two major professions at a time, you may additionally learn as many of the minor professions as you like. Picking up skills in these minor professions can be fun and profitable. Give them a try.
  • First Aid teaches the player to make bandages which can be used to heal and restore health to yourself or others. No real money to be made here, but useful for solo questing if you aren't a healing class.

  • Cooking, as you might guess, allows players to cook food and prepare drinks. The items you prepare from raw materials can restore health and energy, and some special 'buff' foods provide temporary class-specific benefits. Advanced cooks can prepare feasts which enhance the abilities of entire parties of players. Again, not much of a money maker.

  • Fishing which allows players to cast a line and catch fish and maybe reel in some valuable salvage items. Fishermen may also compete in weekly fishing tournaments for unique prizes. Some fish are valuable as cooking ingredients and can earn very good money in the auction house.

  • Archaeology gives players the training to dig for buried artifacts and piece together fragments to create useful. Artifacts can be useful weapons, armor, novelty toys, pets, or even mounts. Archaeology items are not generally auctionable, so not much money to be made but plenty of play value.

  • Riding is a skill required in order to obtain and ride the ground and flying mounts, the creatures and vehicles which transport you under your own control around the virtual world. Unlike other professions, riding skills become available automatically with increasing player level in the game. Your first ground mount license becomes available at level 20, and your first flight license at level 60. Upon reaching a specific level you may purchase a higher level riding license from a riding or flight trainer in major cities. There is no need to practice your skill, just buy the license when available. Note that high level flying licenses cost thousands in gold!

Gold and How to Make It

It always comes down to money, doesn't it? World of Warcraft players use the in-game currency to purchase items from vendors, directly from other players, and thru the auction houses. You'll also pay trainers to enhance your existing skills, learn new skills, and obtain riding licenses.

The currency system is based on metal coinage in copper, silver, and gold:

  • 100 copper = 1 silver
  • 100 silver = 1 gold
So, how do players make gold in the World of Warcraft?
  • You can earn money by killing monsters and looting their corpses.
  • Earn money, reputation, and skills by accepting and completing quests offered by quest-givers.
  • In the section on 'Professions' just above, I made note of specific professions that can make money.
When you work your way up to a level where you can travel to one of the major cities, find and get comfortable with the Auction House. Auction Houses are places to buy items from and sell items to other players. Vendors will purchase items from you directly, but you can generally make much better money by selling to other players thru the Auction Houses. Browse the items to see what prices are being asked for items like the ones you want to sell and price your items accordingly. Pricing is entirely 'supply and demand' and will fluctuate day-to-day and from realm-to-realm.

Transportation: How to Get Around the Virtual World

As a new low-level player you're going to face some challenges with transportation. Your first ground riding mount isn't available until you get to level 20, so you're pretty much 'on-foot'. The good news is that low-level players don't need to travel very far, and if they do they can grab a ride on one of the 'public transportation systems'.

Of particular interest to new players are the following modes of transport:

  • Hearthstone -- all players are given a hearthstone in their storage bag at the time they are created. Click on it and you will be transported to your home 'inn' from anywhere in the virtual world. Handy for returning from a hard day's questing to rest up.

  • Flight Masters -- you can't fly your own mount yet, but you can rent a trained flying mount from a Flight Master for a small fee. Most settlements have a Flight Master who can offer you a ride to a list of nearby locations. You have no control over the mount (you're just a passenger) but it's fast and cheap.

  • Zeppelins and Boats -- flying mounts have limited range and cannot fly across oceans. For inter-continental travel you'll want to hop on one of the free zeppelins (horde) or boats (alliance) for a quick and secure trip between select cities.

  • The Deeprun Tram -- offers low level alliance toons safe transport between Ironforge and Stormwind City. The service is free and interesting, as part of the route is underwater thru a transparent tunnel. Horde players can ride the tram if they can sneak past the city guards to gain access.

  • Portals -- some cities have magic portals which can swiftly transport players to other locations. Most of the places portals go are too high a level for new players (you'd be squished by the first monster you came across), but there are a couple that might be of use:

    • Low level horde players may find use in the unique two-way portal between Undercity and Silvermoon City.
    • Low level alliance players may take advantage of the one-way portal that leads from The Exodar to Darnassus.

  • Helpful Players -- a helpful mage in your guild (or just standing around) can teleport you to a variety of major cities. Higher level mages have more destinations available. You may also be able to get a ride from a player who owns a two-player mount, either ground or flying. Ask nicely and offer a small gratuity.
A small tip: if you are on foot, you're much less likely to be attacked by wandering monsters if you stay on a marked road.

Game Etiquette and the Gamemasters

The rules of in-game ettiquite are simple: be nice players of your faction. If you want to be mean, go kill some players from the other faction. Some specific tips:

  • Keep your language suitable for a family environment.

  • Show patience with people who are having difficulty with some aspect of the game. Respect will be repaid.

  • Don't go around begging for gold -- earn it like everyone else does.

  • If you join a guild to get some help and gameplay benefits, be double-nice to your guild-mates. Help out where you can and your reputation will grow.

If you are having trouble with another player, you may contact a Game Master for assistance. Game Masters are employees of World of Warcraft who can help with many types of problems you may encounter in the game. If you're being a problem, Game Masters can lock your account and throw you out of the game, so play nice!

Holidays and World Events

The World of Warcraft calendar is filled with special holidays and recurring events. Of particular interest is the Darkmoon Faire that takes place during the first full week of each month. The Faire offers fun and interesting opportunities for low-level players to make gold and obtain unusual items.

Dates and details of all the annual holidays can be found at Wowhead.

Vocabulary and Abbreviations

There’s a nice and pretty complete glossary of World of Warcraft terms and abbreviations at Brennin’s Psycho Squirrel Patrol guild page. Here’s a small sample from that page:


A player's primary toon. The one they either play the most, is the highest level, or both.


All other characters held by one player apart from their Main.


Grinding is the act of repeatedly killing the same or similar mobs again and again in an attempt to accumulate drops (or one especially fancy drop), gain experience, gain faction points or complete a quest that requires killing a certain number of mobs.


Like grinding, but with the express goal of collecting a particular item again and again. This does not necessarily involve killing, unless the item has to be dropped from mobs. Farming cloth, for instance, requires killing humanoids over and over again. While grinding refers to the general act of lots of repetitive killing, farming is the act of collecting lots of materials in a repetitive fashion.


A Mage's ability to polymorph humanoids or beasts into sheep. This, along with the Rogue's ability to sap (see Sapping), is quite helpful in separating large groups of mobs in instances. An insurmountable group of five elites, after a sap and a sheep, becomes a far simpler group of three followed by an even simpler group of two. Doing any damage to a sheeped mob will break the spell. This is not only detrimental to the group, but is also considered bad form. Do not break the sheeps!

Who couldn’t love a game where you can turn monsters into sheep?

More Useful Web Sites

There are a great many websites dedicated to the World of Warcraft. Here are a few popular sites that can answer your questions as they come up:

  • Wowhead: World of Warhead Database features help with every detail of gameplay, guides to advanced gameplay, and tools to optimize your toon.

  • gives advice on developing your profession skills and finding the best locations for specific profession needs.

  • is the official World of Warcraft site. Discussion forums and breaking news in the game are prime features. Learn the history of the game and purchase Warcraft merchandise.

An Amusing Music Video and a Documentary of Sorts

Jace Hall - "I Play WoW" and Avatar Days.

I hope you found this guide helpful!

Aaron J. -- AKA Carrotboy
Galakrond (North America) server

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