There are two main factions in "World of Warcraft" -- the Horde and the Alliance. These two factions come from the game's predecessors, the "Warcraft" series of real-time strategy games. In the first two "Warcraft" games you could play through campaigns as humans or as orcs. Generally speaking, the humans were the good guys, and the orcs, known also as the Horde, were the bad guys. In "Warcraft III," though, that changed a little. "Warcraft III" presented both orcs and humans as sympathetic, fallible characters. Each side made its own mistakes, and both put aside their differences to unite against a common enemy in the end.
In "World of Warcraft" the orcs and humans are again at war with one another, and after the events of "Warcraft III," it's difficult to pick a "right" side. Instead, most players choose a faction based on where their friends play or which race they happen to like best. There's also a perception that Horde players are more aggressive and serious about the game. The factions are:
- Alliance: Humans, dwarves, gnomes, night elves, dranei
- Horde: Orcs, trolls, tauren, undead, blood elves
Characters can see the other factions' players, but can't speak to them except in universal gestures called emotes, performed by typing / followed by the action you wish to perform, such as /dance or /sleep. Emotes make it possible to do everything from showing your disdain to thanking a player from the opposite faction for saving your life.
Your character's race affects your starting attributes, or stats, like stamina and intellect. When it comes to specific skills and abilities, this can give you a slight advantage or disadvantage compared to members of other races. Characters also have racial abilities that characters of other races can't learn. For example, night elves can shadowmeld, or virtually disappear from the game world, and blood elves have extra resistance to magic.
Your character's race also affects what class you can play. Here are the classes that are currently in the game:
- Warriors are heavily-armed fighters who can learn to be tanks, or characters that absorb lots of damage and protect weaker players in groups.
- Paladins are warriors that serve the Light. They are a hybrid class -- they can learn to be tanks, healers or damage-dealers.
- Druids are shape-shifters who can take on a number of animal forms. Like paladins, they are a hybrid class.
- Shamans are the third hybrid class. They can create totems to help themselves and their party.
- Mages do lots of damage with spells, but they can't withstand a lot of damage. They can also summon, or magically create, food and water for other players.
- Warlocks, like mages, do damage with spells. They can also summon demon pets to help them in combat.
- Hunters are very effective with ranged weapons, like guns and bows. They can train wild animals to be their pets -- as with a warlock's demons, these pets can help the hunter in combat.
- Rogues are melee fighters. They have a number of thieving abilities, including stealth, lock picking and pickpocketing.
- Priests tend to be healers, but some act as damage dealers.
- Death knights are hybrids that can be any race and start out at level 55 instead of level 1.
You can customize your character with a system of talents. Starting at level 10, you can spend points in one of three talent trees -- these talents affect your character's strengths and abilities. In the case of hybrid classes, talents can have a big impact on game play. For example, a paladin who chooses holy talents becomes a healer, while a paladin who chooses protection talents can become a tank. Or, a paladin can choose retribution talents to do more damage during combat.
See Blizzard's class information page for more details on classes and talents.
Once you create a character, you can enter the game world -- but what do you do when you get there?