A friend of mine tried out Word of Warcraft (WoW) recently, but didn’t get past the character-creation steps.

I’m not generally a big fan of role-playing games–much less multi-player interactive role-playing games–but WoW can be a good way to kill some time.  I made it up to level 60 before I got bored with it, which is saying something, given my low threshold of boredom.

Anyway, here’s how to get started on WoW:

The first thing you have to do is decide which faction you want to join.  There are two–the Alliance, who are good and handsome, and the Horde, who are bad and ugly (John Donne was prescient when he said that “to wicked souls are horrid shapes assigned” or something to that effect).

Both factions have four different races, and you get to choose among them.  The Alliance has dwarves, gnomes, humans, and night elves; the Horde has orcs, trolls, tauren, and undead.  Take your pick.

Okay, race is a subcategory of faction, right?  Well, guess what:  The races have their subcatergories too, called “classes.”  There are nine of them, and they all have different powers, abilities, and weaknesses.  Not every class is available to every race.  Overall, the nine classes are hunter, druid, mage, priest, paladin, rogue, warrior, shaman, and warlock.

I bailed on the game as a level 60 night elf hunter.  I was happy with my decision to be a night elf hunter (as opposed to an orc warlock or something); I just got bored with the game.  More about the boredom factor later.

Once you have your character’s (WoW players generally call characters “toons”) faction, class, and race figured out, you get to tweak its appearance.  You can make it male or female and you can choose its skin color, hair color and hairstyle, stuff like that.  It has no effect on game play but is purely a matter of appearance.

Now you get to name your toon.  A lot of the good names are taken, of course, so you’ll have to be imaginative.  If that doesn’t work, you can let WoW assign you a random name.

All that being done, you get to enter the world.  Click the “Create” button and then “Enter world”, and WoW will deposit your toon in an appropriate level 1 area.  You’ll get balloon tips at the bottom center of your window.  Don’t be in too much of a hurry to run around and explore; read the tips carefully and take heed.

Take some time to figure out your interface and controls.

I think that ought to be enough to get you squared away.

As for the I-got-bored-with-it-and-stopped-playing business:  You start out with quests that you run by yourself–kill X number of monsters, find this or that bauble, go to a far-away place and introduce yourself to so-and-so.  Some quests are time-consuming, but all are pretty easy.  As you increase levels, you get more and more pressured to do group stuff–join a guild, run battlegrounds, raid dungeons.  As a night elf hunter, I’d rather just run around solo, killing critters, skinning them, and selling the armor that I make from their leather.  I don’t have any real interest in joining groups to raid dungeons and whatnot, but once you hit level 60 or so, that’s about all there is to do.