Starting areas are where players begin the game in World of Warcraft as level one characters, based on their selection of race. Players are more or less free to travel wherever they want from the starting location, but it is generally recommended that one complete the character — and race-specific — quests in and around the character's starting location.
All starting areas have one small village, outpost, or town with trainers for all classes and are available to the race(s) that controls the area. There are no profession trainers or inns in starting areas; however, when a starting player first uses his Hearthstone, he is teleported back to the main settlement in the area. Once the player changes where his hearthstone is set, he cannot change it back to the starting area. The second expansion features a new zone where death knights start in. New Death Knights do not actually begin in the Eastern Plaguelands, instead, they begin in an instance which strongly resembles the Eastern Plaguelands.
Though all starting areas are protected by level 95 elite guards, there is no real need for them, as quest givers in starting areas are not flagged for PvP and may not be killed by enemy players, even on PvP servers. This is likely intentionally done by Blizzard to prevent enemy players from killing beginning quest givers and preventing new characters from playing the game.
The past few years have seen unprecedented changes within the eternal land of Quel'Thalas. The blood elves, following the will of their crazed leader Kael'thas Sunstrider channeled dangerous chaotic magics to transform their sacred Sunwell into a gateway of unspeakable evil. While Kael'thas and his demonic masters were eventually defeated, a different kind of transformation occurred within the Sunwell itself, as a dying Naaru sacrificed its life essence to reignite the Sunwell into a fount of holy energy.
Now the blood Elf regent Lor'themar Theron sees a new hope on the horizon for his people. Over time, the Sunwell's light could cure the blood elves of their cursed state, but many still cling to the arcane powers they procured and are hesitant to relinquish them. As one of the remaining blood elves, you must fight to protect Quel'Thalas and help redeem the soul of your ancient people.
For nearly seven thousand years, the High Elves cultivated a shining magical kingdom deep within the forests of northern Lordaeron. But five years ago, the undead Scourge invaded Quel'Thalas and drove the Elves to the brink of extinction. Led by the evil Death Knight Arthas, the Scourge destroyed the mystical Sunwell, thereby severing the Elves from the source of their arcane power. Though the scars of that conflict are evident, the remaining Elves have banded together and retaken much of their homeland. Calling themselves “blood elves”, these grim survivors are committed to regaining the vast powers they once commanded. Inspired by the leadership of their beloved prince, Kael'thas Sunstrider, the Blood Elves now seek out new sources of arcane magic and the means of defending their land against the undying horrors of the Scourge.
Empowered by the holy light and the undying strength of their convictions, the Draenei led the charge against the Demonic Burning Legion in Outland. Now with the legion's defeat, they have completed the desperate mission that first brought them to Azeroth, through some Draenei were sent back to Outland to revitalize their former civilization, the majority have vouched to remain and uphold their sacred commitment to the Alliance. Driven by a powerful vision, the immortal prophet Velen believes that a great war between the darkness and the light is fast approaching and that Azeroth will be its principle battleground. As one of Velen's chosen you must stand bravely before the shadow and ensure that your people are ready for the war to come.
One month ago, a terrible explosion tore open the skies above northern Kalimdor. At that moment, the great ship Exodar plummeted from the heavens and crashed upon the world of Azeroth. Having fled the ravaged world of Outland, the noble Draenei used the dimension traveling Exodar to reach safe haven. Inspired by tales of the heroic Alliance that stood against the might of the Burning Legion, the Draenei have come to enlist aid in retaking their shattered homeland. Dedicated to preserving life and upholding the tenets of the Holy Light, the Draenei hope to gather a new coalition of warriors to battle the Burning Legion and put a halt to its horrific Burning Crusade. Armed only with courage and their unshakeable faith in the Light, the Draenei look forward to finding the Alliance and ushering them towards the destiny that awaits beyond the skies of Azeroth.
Great change has come to the enduring halls of Ironforge, obsessed with the working of the Titans, the dwarves retrieved their creator's mystical tablets from the fabled city of Ulduar. Activating one such tablet King Magni Bronzebeard fell prey to a terrible curse that fused his statue-like form into the diamond heart of Ironforge itself. To compound this tragedy, Magni's estranged daughter Moira arrived, claiming her father's throne for herself and for her infant Dark Iron son.
To avert civil war, the dwarves created the council of Three Hammers, an uneasy coalition that would share power equally amongst the clans. Now, with political upheaval rising within the Kingdom, and the great Cataclysm ravaging the surrounding lands, the future of Ironforge falls to brave dwarves like you.
The stoic Dwarves of Ironforge spent countless generations mining treasures from deep within the earth. Hidden within their impregnable stronghold of Ironforge Mountain, they rarely ventured beyond the wintry peaks of Dun Morogh. Recently, however, the Dwarves unearthed a series of ruins that held secrets to their ancient heritage. Driven to discover the truth about his people's fabled origins, the great King Magni Bronzebeard ordered that the Dwarves shift their industry from mining to archaeology. As part of the Grand Alliance, the stalwart Dwarven armies have been called away to battle the merciless Horde in far away lands. In these perilous times, the defense of the mountain kingdom falls to brave Dwarves like you. The spirits of the ancient kings watch over you and the very mountains are your strength. The future of your people is in your hands.
Though Lady Sylvanas and the Forsaken finally took vengeance upon their hated enemy, The Lich King, their dark crusade in Northrend proved costly. Betrayed by Grand Apothecary Putress at the Battle of Wrathgate, the Forsaken's devious plague of death was unleashed upon both the Alliance and Horde to calamitous effect. Unbeknownst to Sylvanas, Putress and his demonic ally Varimathras had taken control of the Undercity. As a result, the Forsaken were wrongfully blamed for the traitors' atrocities. Though the Undercity was eventually retaken, Sylvanas and her followers still bear the weight of Putress' sins. Mistrusted by the other members of the Horde, the Forsaken must now prove their loyalty to the cause and redeem themselves from their supposed treachery.
To this end, Sylvanas has bolstered her defenses within the Tirisfal Glades and readied her undead forces for any contingency. As one of the forsaken, you must use your cunning and viciousness to slay any who would pose a threat to Sylvanas's rule. Be they human, undead, or otherwise.
Bound to the iron will of the tyrant Lich King, the vast Undead armies of the Scourge seek to eradicate all life on Azeroth. Led by the Banshee Sylvanas Windrunner, a group of renegades broke away from the Scourge and freed themselves of the Lich King's domination. Known by some as the Forsaken, this group fights a constant battle not only to retain its freedom from the Scourge, but also to slaughter those who would hunt them as monsters. With Sylvanas as their Banshee Queen, the Forsaken have built a dark stronghold beneath the ruins of Lordaeron's former capital city. This hidden Undercity forms a sprawling labyrinth that stretches beneath the haunted woods of Tirisfal Glades. Though the very land is cursed, the zealous Humans of the Scarlet Crusade still cling to their scattered holdings, obsessed with the eradication of the Undead and retaking their homeland. Convinced that the primitive races of the Horde can help them achieve victory over their enemies, the Forsaken have entered an alliance of convenience. Harboring no true loyalty for their new allies, they go to any lengths to ensure their dark plans come to fruition. As one of the Forsaken, you must massacre any who pose a threat to the new order, Human, Undead, or otherwise.
Given the recent political upheaval in Ironforge, the gnomes have suddenly found themselves unwelcome guests within the city. Leveraging their ingenious technologies and unquenchable spirit for adventure, the gnomes have begun to re-evaluate their role within Khaz Modan. Under the inventive leadership of High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque, the gnomes now plan a daring campaign against the barbarous troggs to retake their former capital of Gnomeregan.
With the odds stacked against them, the gnomes are counting on brave heroes, such as you, to stand and be counted. Your people's greatest hour draws near.
The eccentric, often brilliant Gnomes are held as one of the most peculiar races of the world. With their obsession for developing radical new technologies and constructing marvels of mind-bending engineering, it's a wonder that any Gnomes have survived to proliferate. Over the years, the Gnomes have contributed ingenious weapons to aid the Grand Alliance in its fierce battles against the Horde. Thriving within the wondrous techno-city of Gnomeregan, the Gnomes shared the resources of the forests of Dun Morogh peaks with their Dwarven cousins. Yet recently, a barbaric menace rose up from the bowels of the earth and invaded Gnomeregan. Aided by their Dwarven allies, the Gnomes fought a valiant battle to save their beloved city. Nevertheless, Gnomeregan was irrevocably lost. The surviving Gnomes fled to the safety of the Dwarven stronghold of Ironforge. There they remain, devising strategies to retake their city. As a Gnome of proud standing, it falls to you to answer the challenge and lead your curious people to a brighter future.
- in-game voice-over
This section concerns content exclusive to Cataclysm.
The wiley, cunning goblins of Kezan have lived in relative peace for generations. Though some of their race sided with the marauding orcs during the Second War, most goblins have remained neutral throughout the various conflicts between the Alliance and Horde. Ruled over by corrupt yet highly affluent trade princes, the goblins created a virtual paradise for themselves throughout the islands of the South Seas.
Their ingenious feats of engineering and vast trade fleets helped make their island capital of Kezan one of the great technological wonders of the world, but now as the elements themselves rise up in anger across the world, the goblins' mechanical paradise will be put to the test, for very soon fate will force them to choose sides in a conflict that will shake the very history of the world.
Emboldened by the return of their heroic king, Varian Wrynn, the proud humans of Stormwind led the Alliance to victory in its war against the dreaded Lich King. While successful, the campaign in Northrend proved costly and the humans now seek to bolster their strategic holdings throughout the world. Under Varian's daring leadership, humanity now braces itself for a renewed conflict with its perennial enemy, the Horde.
Yet as the great Cataclysm rips across the world, familiar threats have once again arisen closer to home. It now falls to you to defend the kingdom and uphold the honor of humanity.
The noble Humans of Stormwind are a proud, tenacious race. Though the recent invasion of the demonic Burning Legion decimated their sister kingdom of Lordaeron, the defenders of Stormwind stand vigilant against any who would threaten the sanctity of their lands. Nestled in the foothills of Elwynn Forest, Stormwind City is one of the last bastions of Human power in the world. Ruled by the child-king Anduin Wrynn, the people of Stormwind remain steadfast in their commitment to the Grand Alliance. Backed by their stalwart allies, the armies of Stormwind have been called away to fight the savage Horde on distant battlefields. With the armies gone, the defense of Stormwind now falls to its proud citizens. You must defend the kingdom against the foul mongrels that encroach upon it and hunt down the subversive traitors who seek to destroy it from within. Now is the time for heroes; now Humanity's greatest chapter can be told.
After years of imprisonment within the Emerald Nightmare, Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage has finally returned to the mortal world. Re-united with his love, Tyrande Whisperwind, Malfurion endeavors now to heal the corrupted World Tree, Teldrassil, and rejuvenate the spirit of the night elf people. Yet as the Cataclysm shakes the bowels of their colossal tree, the night elves brace themselves against the coming storm. As war and destruction close in from all sides, it falls to night elves like you to stand strong and protect the enduring legacy of your people.
For ten thousand years the immortal Night Elves cultivated a druidic society within the shadowed recesses of Ashenvale Forest. Yet recently the catastrophic invasion of the Burning Legion shattered the tranquility of their ancient civilization. Led by the Arch-Druid Malfurion Stormrage and the Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind, the mighty Night Elves rose to challenge the demonic onslaught. Though victorious, the Night Elves were forced to sacrifice their cherished immortality and watch their beloved forests burn. Seeking to regain their immortality, a number of wayward Druids conspired to plant a special tree that would link their spirits to the eternal world. Despite Malfurion's warnings that Nature would never bless such a selfish act, the Druids planted the great tree Teldrassil off the stormy coasts of northern Kalimdor. Within the twilight boughs of the colossal tree, the wondrous city of Darnassus took root. However, the great tree was not consecrated with Nature's blessing and soon fell prey to the corruption of the Burning Legion. Now, the wildlife and even the limbs of the great tree itself are tainted by a growing darkness. As one of the few Night Elves left in the world, it is your sworn duty to defend Darnassus and the wild children of nature against the Legion's encroaching corruption.
The great Cataclysm has shattered more than just the world. Warchief Thrall, arguably the most powerful living shaman, has left his people behind so that he might stop the Cataclysm at its source. Yet in his absence, the orc champion Garrosh Hellscream has become the Horde's new warchief. Though popular amongst the orcs for his victories against the Lich King, Garrosh's reckless leadership has begun to cause a rift between himself and the other leaders of the Horde. With Durotar's natural resources nearly depleted, Garrosh seeks to take whatever his people need to survive, regardless of who stands in his way.
A dangerous new era for the Horde has dawned and it falls to brave new orcs like you to uphold the will of the new warchief and assure the dominance of your people.
Long ago the Orcish Horde was corrupted by the Burning Legion and lured to the world of Azeroth. For generations the Orcs made war upon the Human kingdoms of Stormwind and Lordaeron. Though the Horde was ultimately defeated, a visionary young warchief named Thrall rose to lead his people in their darkest hour. Under Thrall's rule, the Orcs freed themselves from the chains of demonic corruption and embraced their Shamanistic heritage. After years of wandering, the Orcs founded their own kingdom in the harsh wastelands of Durotar. Based in the warrior city of Orgrimmar, they stand ready to destroy all who would challenge their supremacy. As a proud defender of Durotar, it is your duty to crush your enemies both seen and unseen, for the nefarious agents of the Burning Legion still wander the land.
You... are a pandaren, born and raised on the mysterious Wandering Isle. While many of your fellow pandaren prefer a tranquil life, the lure of adventure burns in your blood.
Recently, the Wandering Isle has begun erratically weaving about the world's oceans. The air grows cold and your island home is spiraling toward disaster. As one of the most promising of students at Master Shang's monastery, you may just be the salvation for your people. But first, you must complete your training.
Great tragedy has rocked the Tauren tribes and shaken their once stalwart devotion towards the Horde. A disagreement, between the new orc warchief Garrosh Hellscream and the beloved Tauren chieftain Cairne Bloodhoof, led to a duel that ended in Cairne's death. With his loss, the vile matriarch, Magatha Grimtotem, launched a murderous attack attempting to seize control of Thunder Bluff for herself. However Cairne's brave son, Baine Bloodhoof successfully repelled the attack and banished the surviving Grimtotem to the farthest reaches of the land.
Under Baine's hopeful leadership, the Tauren people now seek to heal their wounds and restore the balance between the various factions of the Horde. To this end, a new generation of tauren Sunwalkers has arisen, to lead their people into the light of the new dawn and the promise of rebirth. As a proud tribesman of Mulgore you must uphold the honor of your people and safeguard the lands of your ancestors.
Once a nomadic people, the Tauren roamed the endless plains of the Barrens hunting the mighty Kodo. Scattered across the land, the wandering tribes were united only by their common hatred for their sworn enemy, the marauding Centaur. Seeking aid against the Centaur, the great chieftan Cairne Bloodhoof befriended the savage Orcs who had recently journeyed to Kalimdor. With the Orcs' help, Cairne and his tribe were able to drive back the Centaur and claim the grassliands of Mulgore for their own. Upon the windswept mesa of Thunderbluff, Bloodhoof built a refuge for his people. Over time, the scattered tribes united under a single banner. Though the noble Tauren are peaceful in nature, the rights of the Great Hunt are venerated as the heart of their spiritual culture. As a tribesman of Mulgore, you must test your skills in the wild and prove yourself in the Great Hunt.
Exiled years ago from their lands in Stranglethorn Vale, the Darkspear trolls attempted to make a new life for themselves amongst the races of the Horde. Under the leadership of the noble warchief Thrall, Vol'Jin and his savage trolls had at last found the honor and purpose they've been searching for, but now under the rule of headstrong Garrosh Hellscream, the trolls fear that the Horde could tear itself apart. Vol'Jin knows that whatever threats loom ahead, whether they be within the Horde or from without, it is cunning trolls like you who will fight to preserve the honor of the Horde.
The vicious Trolls that populate the numerous jungle isles of the South Seas are renowned for their cruelty and dark mysticism. Barbarous and superstitious, they carry a seething hatred for all other races. Long since exiled from its ancestral homeland in Stranglethorn Vale, the Darkspear Tribe was nearly destroyed by rampaging Murlocs. Rescued by the young Warchief Thrall and his Orcish warriors, the Darkspear Tribe swore allegiance to the Horde. Led by the cunning Shadow Hunter, Vol'jin, the Darkspears now make their home in Durotar along with their Orcish allies. As one of the only surviving Darkspears, it falls to you to regain the glory of your tribe.
- in-game voice-over
This section concerns content exclusive to Cataclysm.
Led by their indomitable King Genn Greymane, the proud citizens of Gilneas once stood with the Alliance against the vile orcish Horde that sought to conquer all of Lordaeron. Gilneas survived, but in the chaotic years following the Second War, the mighty kingdom drew ever inward distrustful of their former allies, the Gilneans erected a mighty wall at the borders of their land closing off their nation and their hearts from an ever-darkening world.
Now, many years later as the seemingly unstoppable undead Scourge marches across Lordaeron, human civilization teeters on the brink of destruction as war and terror close in all around them. The citizens of Gilneas are faced with one terrible truth, their mighty wall cannot hold back the dead for much longer and worse, rumors of a new threat have arisen within the kingdom's borders, feral nightmare creatures that walk upright as men, but hunt and howl as wolves.
- in-game voice-over
World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria, Pandaren Intro
WoW Cataclysm Guide - New Horde Intros Compilation
WoW Cataclysm Guide - New Alliance Intros Compilation