Starting areas are where new characters begin their life in World of Warcraft, based on their selection of race (or of the death knight or demon hunter classes). 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 their , they are teleported back to the main settlement in the area. Once the player changes where their hearthstone is set, they cannot change it back to the starting area.
Unlike most other classes, death knights begin at level 55, starting off in The Ebon Hold. All death knight characters start here, regardless of race. New death knights do not actually begin in the Eastern Plaguelands, instead, they begin in an instance which strongly resembles the Eastern Plaguelands. Demon hunters likewise begin life at a high level in their own special starting experience, rather than the usual racial starting areas.
Worgen, goblins and pandaren start in instanced zones similar to the death knights, and do not necessarily follow the same starting area layout patterns as the other races.
All starting areas are protected by Elite guards 5 levels above the current level cap, though quest givers in starting areas are not flagged for PvP and may not be killed by enemy players, even on PvP servers. This is in order to prevent enemy players from killing beginning quest givers and preventing new characters from playing the game. New player characters may still be killed, however, but the extremely powerful guards make sure the enemies do not stay long.
Starting areas often contain a substantial amount of lore, and involve numerous storylines during which characters may find their place in the world and among their people. Each class' early quests also tend to define a character's role and the nature of the class.
- Patch 6.0.2 (2014-10-14): Classic starting areas (Levels 1-10) received a number of improvements to the tutorial, quests, and creature/NPC tuning to provide a smoother starting experience.