Image by lorda via FlickrAs in most bildungsromans, our intrepid hero eventually travels to the big city where they must resist temptation and navigate unknown territory so that they may learn and grow. Sometime around level 10, your character will be directed to the nearest major city or you may simply venture there on your own. Where you started out is a small town with a few vendors and trainers, but the big city offers everything. Every trainer, lots of vendors, and the auction house.
When I first hit the big city, I must admit I was overwhelmed. I was literally afraid of the auction house. Having heard the term "gold farmers" and read about virtual things selling for real money, I had assumed that only the seediest of virtual people hung out at the auction house. It took me a while to venture in there, but I was glad I did.
Before we get to the mechanics of the auction house, we need to talk about professions. Professions are skills you can learn that will provide your character (and others) with items. There are gathering professions: mining, herbalism, and skinning. And there are crafting professions: tailoring, jewelcrafting, alchemy, blacksmithing, leatherworking, inscription, and engineering. Enchanting is kind of both since the materials provided for enchanting come from disenchanting and not from a gathering profession. Generally, you pair a gathering profession with a crafting profession. So mining can be paired with jewelcrafting or blacksmithing since mining provides the materials for those. You can only have two primary professions. There are secondary professions and you can learn all of these: fishing, cooking, and first aid.
There are two approaches to choosing professions. You can choose professions that would be good for your class. For example, I have a warrior who is an herbalist/alchemist. She's able to make herself useful potions. I might have also chosen mining/blacksmithing so that I could make my own armor. Or you can choose professions that make money on the auction house. I have never deliberately taken this approach, but I can say that my death knight's mining and jewelcrafting combo is quite profitable. If you're playing for fun, choose professions that sound fun. More than likely, you will be able to make money off of your leftover materials. To train for a profession, you need to find the trainer for it. Though you may have run into these in the smaller towns, the big city will offer you almost all possible profession trainers. There are guards in the town that you can ask where things are--very handy. If, when you mouse over a NPC, a scroll-like icon shows up, you've found a guard who can give information. They can tell you where the trainers are and where the auction house is. You will need to return to your profession trainer periodically to learn new recipes, but you may also be able to buy new recipes from vendors or you might find them as you kill things.
So now that you're trained up, you can start gathering up stuff for your profession. As you gather and make things, your skill level will increase. And you'll have things you can use like potions or nice new pants, or you may decide to sell them off. To sell stuff, make your way to the auction house and right click on the auctioneer. The interface that pops up should be fairly self-explanatory. You can browse the auction house to find stuff to buy or you can drag an item from your bag to sell it. When you sell an item, you can set an initial bid and then a buyout amount. You might want to look up the item you're selling and see how much it's going for and set your price accordingly. I often set a buyout price that's double the bid price. After selling things for a while, you'll get the hang of how to price things. A good add-on* for auction house stuff is auctioneer. It will price things automatically and keep track of your sales and purchases.
In addition to selling materials for crafting like herbs or ores and products like potions or gems, you can sell off items that you loot from things you've killed. You may get armor and weapons that you don't need, but that are green in color, meaning they have some value (white or gray means they have little or no value and are usually best sold to a vendor). If you're an enchanter, you can disenchant these, but they can be sold usually to be purchased by enchanters needing materials.
You can, of course, buy stuff from the auction house with your earnings. You may need to buy materials for your professions. Sometimes recipes have items that you can't gather yourself or you just don't feel like gathering and you have money, so you may as well buy them. You might also buy equipment for yourself. Generally at the lower levels, you can find equipment out in the world that's suitable, but as you level, you might decide you need better equipment. You can often find better equipment in a dungeon (which I'll talk about next week), but you can often buy some good things at the AH. Having good equipment can make leveling and questing go a lot faster.
Next week, we'll talk about dungeons, where things get really interesting and where we're adding in the element of group dynamics. Is there anything else you'd like to know to get started? Have questions? Let me know and I will try to answer them.
*an add-on is a third-party program that enhances some aspect of wow. there are hundreds of them.