*pours another scotch and soda*
OK, much better. Please note that a lot of the stuff I'm going to go over is general in nature. I'm not going to get into quest specifics or where to find teh fat lootz. This is specifically for someone starting the game out of the box having just read the manual and logging on for the first time, and are things I wish I had known when getting going for the first time. End of disclaimer. Let's begin with...
In The Beginning: Choosing Your First Character
Before you even start the game, you already have choices to make: Race, Class, faction (Horde or Alliance), sex, hair color, features, 401(k) allocation percentages...OK, that comes later, but you get the idea. Notice that each race has it's own racial bonuses, but may only be allowed certain classes to choose from. In general, you obviously want to pick a race you'll enjoy playing, but also look at the bonuses for the races and match them up with the Class you want to play. Generally speaking, Gnomes don't make good warriors and Trolls are crappy at spellcasting, but Gnome warlocks and Troll hunters are extremely powerful characters.
When I first started, I made Matsu Tsuri, the Undead warrior, because I figured it was the simplest thing I could put together to learn the ins and outs of the game. Later on, I found that warriors, particularly tanks, are some of the more complicated characters to learn. For your first character, Hunters are very good because of their stand-off and shoot capability, the ability to "track" mobs (which allows you to find or avoid monsters as you will) and train certain monsters as pets to do the dirtywork up close. Mages and Warlocks are also good, as they have the ability to do massive damage from afar or sic their summoned minions on people. For a first character, I would choose one of those three and leave Warrior, Paladin, and Shaman for a 2nd or 3rd toon.
Whatever your choice, once you have created a character and chosen a server to start on, your journey toward heroic stature will begin with...
"Dude, can you go snake me 16 wolf pelts and some sage?"
Yes, starting quests are not very glorious. Then again, as cool as your character looks, your stats and armor will be visciously uncool for awhile, so put glory on the back burner for now. Remember that you can have up to 25 quests stored in your log at one time, so run around and grab every quest from the starting area you can before attempting them. I highly recommend, both for the sake of enjoying the game and learning how quests work in general, not using thottbot or similar to "cheat" on the quests. While it feels unethical to me, I'll give you a practical reason: Some quests are in the same area with each other, so it is possible to multitask quests IF you have read and understood what they're asking for.
Beginning quests aren't very difficult (duh...they're for Level 1 civilians), so you should be able to go out and complete 2-3 quests at a time and then return for quest turn-in all at once. This will save you some upfront time and running back to the same area over and over again to do multiple quests you could have polished off in one shot.
After you complete a few quests, you should have been able to level up a bit and may have actually grabbed some decent armor in the form of loot off the monsters you've had to exterminate. Pick the pieces that give you best armor ratings and sell the rest, but don't worry about buying anything else at this point. Early on, the drops you get from mobs will be roughly the same quality as the stuff you can buy off a vendor, and it may even be better. You'll need gold at later levels for things like the Auction House, flight paths, skill training, food, melon juice, Blood Elf "escorts," etc. Start the habit early of only buying what you absolutely need so that later on you can afford the cool stuff without begging with a tin cup outside Ogrimmar.
Questing vs. Kill-Crazy Rampage
The best armor and weapons you will get early on will come in the form of quests, as will the most XP. While laughing maniacally and killing everythig in site is sometimes quite fun, it is not the most efficient way to level and get gold, loot, etc. Questing can be difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating, but it is the best way to level early, bar none.
Each quest you do within the first 5 levels or so gives you anywhere from 150-300 XP. Each quest usually takes about 15 minutes. So, my math advisor wishes to inform me that questing nets you roughly 10-20 XP per minute. The starting mobs, on the other hand, only give out 15-20 XP each, and there is no guarantee in the beginning that you can kill enough of them to compete with the questing math...and you might die. There is always that.
Therefore, take and complete every single quest you can early on to net the maximum amount of experience in the minimum amount of time. on't worry, there will be plenty of stuff to beat on later, and I guarantee it will beat back.
Class and Profession Skills
As you progress, you will need to visit skill trainers often. your starting area will have a skill trainer for your chosen Class that is more than willing to teach you the tricks of the trade for a price. Make sure you visit your trainer at every level early and then every other level once you hit 10.
After completing your first group of quests, you will be shipped off the bunny hill to a new area where more quests will be available, but also the first few skill trainers you can learn various professional skills from. This is where your character starts to take on a life of his/her own. What do they excel at? When they aren't beating on poor, hapless animals, zombies, or fish-men, what do they do in their spare time? You can choose up to two main professions to take on, and any number of secondary ones (first aid, cooking, fishing, etc.). Generally, you want to pick a profession based on three criteria:
• Will it compement your class choice? In other words, it doesn't make a lot of sense to choose tailoring as a profession if you're a Paladin (unless you're going for some karmic warrior-monk theme or something) since tailors can't make the best armor, weapons, etc. for Paladin-class characters. Blacksmithing might be a better option for your character.
• Will it complement another profession you already have? Herbalism and Alchemy feed very well off one another. You can level them almost simultaneoulsy. Mining and Blacksmithing are also complimentary. Engineering and Inscriptions? Not so much. You'll find much more difficulty leveling 2 disparate skillsets than two related ones; not to mention the cost involving buying raw materials when, in the other examples listed above, you can farm them for virtually free.
• Will it make you money? Mining, skinning, and jewelcrafting can all make you a ton of cash if done right. Ore and refined bars of ore are always in high demand, as is leather armor, raw materials, jewlery, etc. Money makes the world...of Warcraft...go 'round. If you're all about the Benjamins and don't care about actually making anything, by all means, choose 2 farming skills and rake in the cash. Remember, though, at higher levels created items may outdo drops, so choose accordingly.
OK, that's all for the moment. There's plenty more, but I'm getting sleepy and I'm out of Scotch. We'll continue tomorrow...