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Beginner's Guide to the World of Warcraft
November 26, 2004 | Ryan Fritsch

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The World of Warcraft (WoW) truly is a world. Its huge natural environment includes dry deserts, lush forests, towering peaks, and inky depths. The eight main races each have incredibly deep and distinct cultures whose beliefs, lore and lifestyle permeate the thousands of possible quests that one can embark upon. The massive capital cities even offer all the services that you would expect a civilization to have (and some you wouldn't).

In such a huge place it is easy to get lost. And despite its gentle learning curve, it is also easy to play for 20 hours and find yourself saying "if only I knew that when I started!"

This guide is intended to keep that kind of regret from happening. It will show new players how the key systems work in WoW and how they can best use them. The intention of this guide is to help new players avoid frustration by providing them with the kinds of information that would be naturally learnt over the course of hours and hours of gameplay. At the same time, there are no spoilers here, just helpful tips that will put all players on an even footing. This guide will not introduce players to the very basics like using the interface, how to cast a spell or how to control movement or the camera. Blizzard has already written that guide here (other links in this guide will also point out more detailed info from Blizzard).

Instead, we will cover five main categories to keep you from having to learn the hard way: server types (PvP or PvE); character races, classes, skills, talents and professions; traveling around; the economy; and an overview of questing, combat, death and resting.

Server Types
First off, you'll notice that your race either puts you in with the noble but condescending goody-goodies of the Alliance (including Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes), or the nasty, brutish and ugly freaks of the Horde (including Orcs, Tauren, Undead and Trolls). Choosing sides can be an important decision depending on what kind of server you play.

On Player vs. Environment servers (PvE) (sometimes called "normal" servers), there is less emphasis on combating other human players and less concern that someone may be aiding the enemy. On these servers players are allowed a mix of up to 10 characters from both the Horde and Alliance, which can be freely switched between with a simple logout. PvE servers are geared to casual players who want to concentrate on simply enjoying the world, role playing, exploring, or experimenting with any race or class. Combat is primarily directed against natural creatures and in achieving quest objectives. There are still plenty of opportunities to fight other players, but it will mostly be consensual. Examples of this would be agreeing to duel another player, toggling on the PvP flag to automatically fight hostile races should you come across them (simply type /pvp in the chat window), or by going on raids into the territory of a hostile race. In the future, Blizzard will be adding Battlegrounds to the game, which are specific areas for groups to settle their differences in while other watch the carnage!

On Player vs. Player servers (PvP), there is a much more competitive and combative atmosphere. Guild and faction warfare is much more prevalent and intense, and being able to trust your mates is an important consideration. On these servers, players are still allowed up to 10 characters, but they can only be from either the Alliance or the Horde, not both. PvP servers are geared to frequent or hardcore players who enjoy fighting against others rather than simply the environment, and who want to push a given race and class to their limits. As such, players are only protected from combating other players in zones catering to levels 20 or lower. After level 20 or outside safe zones (usually the area around starting points), everyone is fair game. This can make the game more challenging, but also more of an intense, heart-pounding experience as your life depends on you being constantly vigilant and on guard. Players who play on a PvP server will almost certainly want to join a guild of some sort for protection and to mix different classes into strong and competitive platoons.

Character Races, Classes and Abilities
WoW gets a lot of its depth and replayability from the vast combinations of races, classes, talents and professions possible. New players should be aware that some combinations work better than others, though determining which is often a matter of common sense and being familiar with mythical traditions!

Each race gets a variety of inherent bonuses. Dwarves, for example, have the ability to sense nearby treasure chests, while the Undead have a natural resistance to Shadow magic and don't have to breathe much underwater. Some racial bonuses can save you the cost of training certain skills or points for talents that can be allocated elsewhere. You should be aware of these bonuses as an extra edge to exploit, and to better find a race that suits your playing style.

Races are also defined by their starting attributes. The abilities of all WoW characters depend to varying degrees on their strength, agility, intelligence, spirit, and stamina. Each race starts the game with its own basic attributes, though these can be increased through leveling, using temporary boosters like potions or spells, or by equipping magical armor, weapons, rings and the like. You can find out what the starting attributes for each race are here.

Because of these bonuses and just because they are who they are in their attributes, different classes are more suited to the different races. There are nine different classes in WoW: Druid, Hunter, Mage, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock and Warrior.

Generally, Paladins, Warriors and Rogues deal the most direct melee damage, but also take a lot of damage and are highly dependent on having good equipment. Paladins can also cast some healing magic and make use of magical auras. Hunters and Druids are jacks-of-all-trades that are good at playing alone and are more likely to use ranged weapons like bows and guns. Hunters usually travel with pets, while Druids can morph into different animal forms that can allow them to be decent "tanks" in combat, faster travelers, or even better swimmers. Mages, Warlocks and Shaman cast aggressive magic and can teleport other players around. Mages are more inclined to direct ranged damage with their spells, while Shaman are a hybrid class and are able to resurrect other players. Warlocks are complex characters to play, creating different combinations of spells that often require the use of ingredients called "reagents", some of which can be quite rare. They can also summon pets and use a variety of amusing spells. But because of this complexity and relative physical fragility, Warlocks are generally not recommended for beginner players unless they are dedicated. Priests are also a more specialized class. They are the best healers in the game, cast skill-enhancing magic on others (called "buffs"), are able to resurrect fallen comrades, and can control the mind of humanoid monsters. At the higher levels a Priest can specialize as a Shadow Priest, which can deal decent damage if played well. Although they are quite difficult to go solo with, Priests are a group's best friend, and play a huge role in the more difficult quests and in PvP guild and raid warfare. Note that some Priest spells are race specific, so plan wisely with this class!

Creating a Character
Races and classes can be mixed with certain restrictions. But building the best character means synergizing the strengths of a race's attributes and bonuses with the needs of a class.

Warriors, for example, are highly dependent on strength to inflict maximal damage and health to take a beating. Creating a Gnomish warrior is entirely possible since any race can choose the warrior class. However, a Gnome only starts with a base of 18 strength, and are about three feet tall. If they were to go hand-to-hand with a Tauren warrior, whose base strength of 28 is supported by their 8-foot frame, they would be at a substantial disadvantage. Furthermore, Tauren get a 5% racial bonus to maximum health. A player would be much better off with a Gnomish mage since their base intelligence, the key attribute for spell casting, is 24. A Tauren, on the other hand, is a bit dim with an intelligence of only 15.


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