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This section will walk you through your first steps towards discovering World of Warcraft’s vast range of mystery and adventure. You will learn all you need to know to dive right into the game, from character creation basics to a handy class selection guide.
Your character is your avatar in World of Warcraft. You’re not limited to one character, though; you’re free to create dozens of characters if you want to experience all the different race and class combinations. Many players refer to their most frequently played character as their “main” and all other characters as their “alts.” Why create more than one character? Since each class plays differently, it’s fun to experiment with other styles of gameplay.
World of Warcraft has millions of active players. If all these players were in the same game world at the same time, things would get more than a little crowded (plus which, the computers running the game would probably form a workers’ union and go on strike). To keep the gameplay experience stable, smooth, and consistent, World of Warcraft’s population is divided into several different realms. Each realm is an identical copy of the game world, but generally, players from the same realm can only play and interact with each other*. Think of each realm like its own parallel universe or mirror dimension, each home to thousands and thousands of unique player characters.
Realms come in four different flavors based on the kind of gameplay experience they offer:
If you are planning to play with a friend, make sure to create characters on the same realm so you can adventure together. The Recruit-A-Friend referral system provides considerable in-game bonuses to linked friends and family members. Visit the Recruit-A-Friend page to learn more about this feature.
The original World of Warcraft has eight races to choose from and subsequent expansions increase this number to twelve. Your character’s race determines your overall visual appearance, grants special benefits in the form of racial abilities, and also locks you into one of two factions: Alliance or Horde.
Which faction you choose is important because only characters of the same faction can communicate with each other. So, for example, if you created a night elf, that character would only be able to chat and play with the other Alliance characters in the realm. A tauren, on the other hand, could only play with the realm’s other Horde characters.
Faction and race are mostly social choices: they determine what your character looks like and who you can interact with. Your choice of class is a gameplay decision: it determines what your character can and can’t do, and what kind of experience you will have playing that character.
Not all races can play as all classes; for example, dwarf characters cannot be druids. Generally speaking, your class has a much bigger impact on the way you will experience World of Warcraft, so if the choice comes down to either a specific race or a specific class, pick the class that you prefer.
Some classes are designed specifically for one role, while other classes can perform several. The best example for a “pure” healer, for example, is the priest class (although shadow priests are a notable exception), while druids are a good example of a “hybrid” class that can effortlessly fill the role of tank, healer, or damage dealer.
Tanks fight by outlasting their enemies. They are rugged, durable characters that can soak up a lot of damage before they go down. In groups, a tank’s role is to get the monsters to attack him instead of other, more vulnerable members of his group.
Healers have spells and abilities that allow them to quickly regenerate their own health and that of other players. They are especially useful in groups, because even though tanks are as tough as a brick wall, they need healers to keep them alive long enough for the damage dealers to finish the job.
Damage dealers excel at quickly inflicting a lot of damage. Where tanks are marathon runners, damage dealers are sprinters, trying to defeat their targets as quickly as possible while avoiding damage as best they can.
Once you’ve picked a race and a class, it’s time to make adjustments to your character’s appearance. Feel free to switch between male and female; the sexes are treated equally in every regard in World of Warcraft, so playing as a man or a woman is a purely cosmetic choice.
Each race has additional visual traits you can adjust, such as earrings, tattoos, hair style, and more. You can choose from several different ornate beard styles for a dwarf, for example, or choose between horns of varying lengths and shapes for a tauren character. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the “randomize” button to have the game generate a few random configurations until you see one you like, or you can fine-tune your character’s appearance yourself.
Lastly, you need to pick a name for your character. Keep in mind that offensive names are not allowed; as a matter of etiquette, please choose an appropriate name. Some names will have already been taken by other players, so explore different name options until you find one you’re happy with.
Congratulations, you’ve created your first character! Review your choices, and if you’re happy with them, click the button to set foot in a world of mighty heroes and high adventure. Your journey is about to begin….