So I don't even know where to start WoW is an amazingly complex game, with millions of people, it's own economy, "real life" crime, social systems and structures, and an amazing story line. The biggest part about WoW is for the most part there is no ending, it is rare that anyone has completed everything that can be completed in the entire game ... and even if there are a handful of people out of the millions that play, they can always start all over with a new character, a new faction and do it all again, from a completely different point of view.
|An artist's rendering of the Alliance Night Elves|
|An artist's rendering of some of the horde races; Blood Elves, a Tauren & an Undead|
There are several group events that require people to play different roles; tanks, healers & dps (damage per second). Tanks basically keep the aggro or threat, it is their job to make sure that the "bad guys" are attacking them and not the dps or the healers. Their entire job is to generate threat and hold the mobs so that the dps can kill them. In larger groups it is usually required that you have a main tank and an off tank, so 2 tanks in the group. This is necessary because sometimes two "mobs" need to be separated or a boss of some kind has to be swapped between two tanks to make sure the tanks don't die. Healers are kind of self-explanatory but their job is to keep everyone alive, in large groups there are two kinds of healers, tank healers & raid healers. Tank healers focus on just keeping the tank alive, while raid healers focus on keeping the dps and other healers alive. Finally, the dps is there to kill things, there are a few kinds of dps; caster, ranged & melee. Technically speaking casters are ranged, but that's a complexity I won't get into right now. Casters are the basic "magicians" the kind you think of when you think of fantasy type games, Harry Potter, etc., basic magicians. Ranged (non-caster) dps is basically just one class, the hunter, that does most of their damage with a gun, bow, crossbow or thrown weapon, so they are considered ranged. Melee dps is any of the classes that literally beat on the bad guys with weapons; swords, daggers, axes, etc. In a 5-man group there is one tank, one healer & three dps. In a typical 10-man raid group there are two tanks, two-three healers & five-six dps, usually balanced between caster/ranged and melee. In a typical 25-man raid group there are three tanks, five-seven healers and fifteen-seventeen dps.
Classes can fill different roles and customize their game play by choosing their own talents withing talent trees as they level, these various talents make you stronger at doing certain things and can define the role you play in a group or raid. Okay that all being said I will break down the classes in the most simple way I can.
Druids can fill all roles, they are the only class that can. Druids can take on a bear form to be a tank, a cat form to be melee dps, a tree form to heal, or a "moonkin" form otherwise known as "boomkin" basically looks like an owl with horns, and in that form they can be caster dps.
Hunters fill a physical, ranged dps role. Hunters shoot special arrows or bullets with a ranged weapon and use varying pets to help them maintain higher damage. Different kinds of pets fill different roles, so hunters can choose which pet best fits their talents and how they play their hunter.
Mages are casters filling a dps role. They have three talent trees; arcane, frost & fire. While arcane is the preferred tree for raiding both frost and fire have their benefits.
Paladins, much like druids can fill many roles. In their protection tree they can become tanks, through their holy tree they can become healers (tank healers primarily), and through their retribution tree they can become melee dps.
Priests are primarily healers, they used to be the be-all, end-all healers, but have been "nerfed" and other healing classes made stronger. They can also fill the role of caster dps. In their Holy tree they are primarily raid healers, in their discipline tree they are primarily tank healers and in their shadow tree they are caster dps. However, priests can dps in both holy and discipline trees, but their damage will be much lower than in a shadow tree.
Rogues are melee dps with the added bonus of applying poisons to their weapons, so when they attack the bad guys they also add poisons to them. Rogues are also able to pick locks and pickpocket, making them valuable outside of raiding.
Shamans can fulfill three different roles; in their restoration tree they are healers, in their elemental tree they are caster dps and in their enhancement tree they are melee dps. Shamans put down totems providing the entire raid with "buffs" ie benefits like improved spellpower etc., that along with a spell they have called heroism on the alliance side, bloodlust on the horde side that increases damage done, haste and healing for a short time make them a huge benefit in all raids.
Warlocks are caster dps with the benefit of a pet. Warlock pets are basically summoned demons and they have several to choose from that fill different roles. The first minion that warlocks get is a genie looking thing often referred to as a blueberry that is a tank, making low level questing and leveling much easier. In raids warlocks are very beneficial due to the nature of their spells. They cast many DOTs (damage over time spells), so they continue to do damage even when they aren't actively casting.
Warriors can be tanks or melee dps. Warriors started out as the prime tanking class, but over time (kind of like priests) have been nerfed while other tanking classes have been made stronger.
Deathknights are the first and so far only hero class in WoW. You must have a level 55 toon in order to create one and they start at level 55 rather than at level 1. Deathknights came out with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and basically are minions of the Lich King that saw the light and turned good. They can fill the roles of tanks or melee dps. They cast diseases with their weapon strikes, killing enemies with various plagues and fevers. They have become a very strong tanking class, and are a unique breed because they can tank in two different talent trees (some would argue all three), they can also dps in all three trees. This variety makes them very personal toons to play.
So, those are the classes .... so you pick your class, race, gender you design your toon and you're launched into the land of Azeroth as a level 1 in a "starter area" ... starter areas have many quests that involve "neutral" enemies. This means that nothing will attack you unless you attack it. Typically speaking it takes less than an hour to get to level 5 ... maybe 3 hours to get to level 10 ... this can be the hook. It seems so fast, so easy, it makes you want to just keep going. You do various quests, given out by NPC's (non-player characters), kill things and complete dungeons in order to level up. At level 20 you get your first ride-able ground mount, these are race specific, humans get horses, blood elves get hawkstriders, gnomes get mechanochickens, etc., at level 40 you can upgrade your mounts to faster ones, at level 60 you can get a flying mount, making questing go much faster and an enormous help on PVP realms. So you do all this leveling to get to level 80 ... and then you actually start playing the game. This is where the fun starts, you see the story unfold in what is called end-game content. This is where the progression raiding happens, where the "just one more level" turns into "just one more boss" ... this is where you really start worrying and caring about the gear your toon has; their boots, trinkets, weapons ... this is where the fun begins ...
I could tell you so much more ... there is so much more in WoW than all I have described ... I haven't even touched on the social aspect ... the friends ... the wonderful people. I haven't really mentioned the inner-working economy and the auction houses ... the tier gear ... the tier bonuses that come with tier gear ... there is so much more to say ... but to anyone that is actually interested in learning about WoW that doesn't already know, I have probably already bored you to death =p