First Rule of choosing a character. Playing something that turns out to be what you don't like, is still worthwhile. The more you understand the classes you will be playing with, the better player you will be. That said, here's a summary to help you choose a class. Much of this will not be in the official listing. I will try to cut to brass tacks. If it gets stickied, great. If not, I will try to bump it when I see requests.
The following contains many general statements. There are always exceptions. For example, I know rangers that can top the dps lists on some raids. I know necros that are number 1 dps on any long event. We have a beastlord that is always in the top 10. Etc... Please don't take issue unless you feel the general trend is incorrect.
Definitions I will use in my discussion:
DPS - Damage per second
Kiting - the process of snaring (slowing the run speed) one more more mobs and slowly killing them from afar without them able to catch you.
Kiter - any class that uses the above to solo. If a class solos via this method predominantly, I will note it with (kiter).
Aggro - when you are engaging a mob by yourself, you are said to have it's aggression, or aggro. That means it's going to want to hit you.
Berserker- Pure melee class. Wears chain armor. Will be very weapon dependent at the high end. If you like the idea of wielding a huge axe and doing big damage while your fury affects those around you, this class may fit you. Not a good solo class until high level with the addition of potions. Shines in a group
Upside: High damage, easy to pick up, welcome in groups.
Downsides: Not a ton of versatility. But honestly, they don't need it.
Rogue- Pure melee class. Wears chain armor. The master of attacking from stealth and the back. Very weapon dependent in later levels. Has the ability to sneak unseen past all but the most vigilant creature. Poor solo class. The elite scouts of dungeon crawls. The rogue shines in a group. If you like the idea of being able to appear behind a mob and watch it's health drop like a rock, this class is for you.
Difficulty: Moderate to easy.
Upside: High damage, can explore like no one else in stealth, desirable in groups.
Downside: Can really struggle to solo without a merc
Monk- Pure melee class. Wears leather armor. Monks need no weapons at all for a considerable time. In the end game, they will be weapon dependent. Monks have a variety of disciplines such as feign death, mend, intimidate, and even mesmerize and snare in later levels that make them a significantly different playing experience from the other pure melee classes. Monks can solo through the entire game acceptably, and extremely well at the high end. If you like being able to go anywhere, be self-sufficient, and yet be in high demand as a puller, this class is for you.
Difficulty: Moderate to Easy
Upside: Can go even where rogues cannot with feign death flopping. Great lone wolf class, that also is in demand for groups.
Downsides: only can choose 3 races, Humans, Drakkin and Iksar. Won't quite match the dps of the first 2.
Beastlord- Part Shaman, part monk. Wears leather armor. Moderately weapon dependent. Beastlords have moderate to low skills in melee, casting, and healing. But when you add the entire package together with a strong pet, they equal a very strong class. When you then consider their ability to slow and even snare with their pets, you have a very strong soloing class that is also good in groups. Beastlords have a couple buffs that are very valuable in groups/raids. If you want to succeed in a group or solo, and have a bit of every ability in the game, this class is for you.
Upsides: Can solo well and are very versatile.
Downsides: Like mages, they are sometimes underrated.
Ranger- A warrior druid hybrid. Wears Chain armor. They have most of the melee ability of warriors, with some of the caster utility of druids. The result is a class that can solo effectively and a solid outdoor puller. The masters of the bow and solid damage at high levels. Rangers are very weapon dependent. Rangers have weak heals in the beginning, and decent heals in the endgame. Very valuable buffing class with their line of attack buffs. If you want to be able to travel the wild areas of the game without a hint of fear, and to have a death-dealing bow, this is your class.
Upsides: Lots of utility. Good at getting out of bad situations outdoors. Solid dps class.
Downsides: Won't quite dps like the big boys, but when played well, adds enough utility to more than cover the gap.
Bard- Bards are the jack of all trades of EQ. Wears plate armor. If there's something they can't do, I haven't seen it. By themselves, bards aren't good at much of anything (except pulling), but in a group they turn into instant value. Imagine any scenario, a bard can make it work. Run speed, attack, resists, mana regen, heath regen, sending mobs away, kiting, pulling... there's nothing they can't add to a group or a raid. Bards are not considered a strong solo class. If you want to be the guy that turns a lousy group into a great one, this is your class.
Upside: You can do anything.
Downsides: You don't do it well alone.
*All pure casters wear silk armor.
Wizard- The glass cannon of Everquest. Will be focus effect dependant in later levels if they wish to truly reach the heights of dps. Besides being the kings of burst dps amongst casters, wizards have a large number of portal spells that allow fast travel around the world for themselves and their party. With the ability to snare kite, wizards become excellent soloists (kiter). If you like to see gigantic damage showing up in everyone's windows and riding the line of superstar or dead fool, this class is for you.
Difficulty: Moderate to Easy
Upsides: You will not be challenged in burst dps for a long time. You will get around Norrath quickly. Solos VERY well.
Downsides: You may get a lot of unwanted attention from monsters until you learn to control your aggro.
Magician- Mages are the masters of conjuration. Mages own the best variety of pets in the game. They also have a bewildering array of things they can summon from invisibility stones, levitation rings, to full sets of armor and pet weapons. Mages are focus effect dependant like wizards, but to a lesser extent. Mages are great soloists with their ability to heal their pets and dish out respectable spell damage of their own. If you enjoy a mostly self-sufficient class with tons of toys and great pets, this class may be for you.
Upsides: An exceptionally versatile class in terms of what it can provide the group. Solos very well.
Downsides: Can sometimes be overlooked due to people not understanding how they work and the damage they can do.
Necromancer- The master of death and decay. The necromancer is the unquestioned king of damage over time, with poison and disease being the focus of his arsenal. Moderately focus effect dependent in the end game. The necromancer is also a pet user. Arguably, the best soloist in the game (kiter). With snare, a pet, feign death, and almost infinite mana, it's hard to argue. At the high end, necros are the most underrated dps class in the game. If you want to be able to not care if you have a group, this class is for you.
Difficulty: Moderate to Easy
Upsides: You don't need a group. You are a group.
Downsides: Sometimes necros get overlooked because they are not a strong burst damage class. Also, necromancers are evil and will be kill on sight in all good areas of Norrath.
Enchanter- THE crowd control class of Everquest using a variety of mesmerize, stun, and charm spells. Enchanters are somewhat focus effect dependant. Enchanters can solo, but they are strongly desired in groups. Enchanters have one of the most highly coveted buffs in the game, mana regeneration. If you like the idea of walking into a room of hostiles and locking it down, turning wipes into wins, and controlling chaos, this may be the class for you.
Upsides: You will always have a group if you want it.
Downsides: Can be a difficult class to play well. But, the good ones are pampered.
Cleric- Lives in a group. Wears plate armor. The best healer in the game. If there is a heal that affects a single player, a group or a raid, the cleric has it. Required to raid. Can resurrect dead players and return most of their lost experience. Has a line of magic based damage spells, the ability to root, and is an outstanding buffing class. Can solo, but does it poorly except for the very high end game where it can solo big mobs very well. If you want to be the life or death of the group, you are a cleric.
Difficulty: Easy (unless you become a high end raider)
Upside: You are the best at what you do, you are wanted in every group.
Downsides: You aren't much of a soloist of anything but undead.
Druid- Strong healer with a nature theme. Wears leather armor. Has a single target heal that competes with clerics. Not as strong a group heal as clerics, but does much better damage. One of the best buffing classes in the game. Also, one of the great solo classes in EQ (kiter). Druids were once the most common class due to their ability to group, solo, and port all over the worlds of EQ. With the addition of snare, they can solo almost anything outdoors that doesn't summon. Can call dead players back to life. If you want to be able to fill the role of any caster in a group, and solo easily, this is your class.
Upsides: One of the best lone wolf classes. Can be completely self-reliant for a long time.
Downsides: Sometimes people feel they MUST have a cleric for their group when a druid would suit just fine.
Shaman- Shamans are THE most difficult class to summarize in the game. Wears Chain armor. They do everything but melee, burst dps, and crowd control well. Shamans Heal, boost the damage of others, slow the damage output of hostiles, and do moderate spell damage of their own. They also have a weak pet. Their single target heals are not as strong as a cleric or druid, but they have a nice line of group regeneration spells. Shamans are the best buffing class in the game. Shamans CAN solo well, but are in such high demand for groups, they often won't bother. The only class that can pursue alchemy. I'd say something clever here, but if you want to be a needed class, that can do EVERYTHING but melee, burst dps, and crowd control, play this class.
Upsides: Just about everything.
Downsides: They will often be the focus of a lot of attention from hostiles.
Shadowknight- A warrior/necromancer hybrid. Once the whipping boy of EQ, they are now quite powerful. Shadowknights are the evil king of crowd control in all cases where the hostiles cannot be put to sleep and there is room to run. If you love to kite huge swarms of mobs on purpose, this is the class for you. Shadowknights are also exceptional tanks in regular group situations due to their instant aggro abilities and their lifetaps which mitigate damage. Add in Feign death, and you have a class that can fill in as a tank or a puller. Or BOTH! Not a soloist of note until very high level when they become very powerful. Play this class if you want to play a versatile tank and want to indulge your evil side.
Upsides: Tanks are always needed.
Downsides: You won't solo very well until high level. You will be evil which will put you at odds with all the good races.
Paladin- A warrior/cleric hybrid. Paladins use stuns to generate aggro and mitigate damage. They cannot control vast numbers of mobs as easily as the shadowknight, but I've seen great paladins almost as good at it as great sks. The thing paladins do have is a group heal to rival clerics and the ability to completely shut down a mob for a time with a stun. Paladins are great tanks for any group. You will not solo very well until high level when you become very powerful. Paladins are the enemy of undead and in later levels do incredible damage to them. Play this class if you want to play a versatile tank and value honor.
Upside: Solid tanks are always in demand.
Downsides: You won't solo very well.
Warrior- The best mitigators of incoming damage in the game. Also can do damage at the same level of rangers, just under the other pure melee. Probably the worst solo class in the game. If you like being the focus of the entire raid or group with huge nasty beasts hitting you harder than you thought anyone could be hit, with the outcome of the entire battle resting on your life, this is the class for you.
Upsides: You cannot raid without a warrior at the high end.
Downsides: You live in a group.
PART 2: CHARACTER CREATION BASICS
Now we get into the specifics of making your new character. Here's a few hints to remember in case you forget everything once you log in. These may not be optimal, but they will be close to the advice I'll give you anyway's. Don't forget to read the final considerations sections at the end of this post.
MOST IMPORTANT - YOUR RACE ISN'T IMPORTANT LONG TERM. CHOOSE THE ONE YOU LIKE BEST AND FORGET STAT DIFFERENCES.
1. If you totally misplace all your stats, don't worry about it. Eventually your stats will get so high the little difference won't be relevant.
2. You may be asked to try a religion. Feel secure that your playing experience will not be impaired by anything you choose.
3. If you don't want to enter the tutorial after creation (although I recommend it if you are new) you must find the tutorial button on the character screen, and click it so it is not "pushed in" before you enter the world.
4. Don't be afraid to try several classes before choosing one. If you hate your first character, try another. There's 14!
When you create your character on your chosen server, you will be asked to choose the character's name, whether you wish to enter the tutorial, your religion (sometimes you have to choose one religion), and your starting ability levels. You will be given 20-30 points to add to your races starting abilities (although they will be allocated by default and you will be fine if you just take their recommendation). I will quickly discuss the abilities (race is largely irrelevant so I will not discuss it) and then we'll get started making your new character.
Strength - Determines how much you can carry. Also adds to the damage you do with melee weapons.
Agility - Helps you avoid incoming attacks. Plays a part in avoidance armor class (which you cannot see, but trust me, it's there).
Dexterity - Determines your skills with weapons. Higher dexterity means that if your weapons have effects on them, they will activate (or proc) more frequently. High Dexterity also determines how often you will critical strike with weapons.
Stamina - Determines your base health along with your class and race. The higher your stamina, the more health you will have
Wisdom - Determines the starting mana for Beastlords, Clerics, Druids Paladins, and Shamans. The higher the wisdom for those classes, the more mana they will have.
Intelligence - Determines the starting mana for Bards, Enchanters, Magicians, Necromancers, Shadowknights, and Wizards. The higher this stat is for those classes, the more mana they will have.
Charisma - This stat determines how charismatic you are. It is important for charming and pacify abilities. (enchanter, bard, cleric, ranger). In the raiding game, it will also affect how often Divine Intervention saves you as a tank. However, I highly suggest you ignore this ability at character creation unless you are a bard or enchanter.
Okay, got all that? Good! Now let's look at the creation process.
First thing, if you want to change your abilities, you need to click the advanced button on the main screen. If you want to move points from the default selections, you will need to click the minus sign on the different stats until your points are reset. Also, strength is what determines how much you can carry without becoming overloaded, slower, and sometimes vulnerable. If you despise that and hate stopping to drop stuff in the bank or sell, sink a bunch of points in strength in place of stamina.
* Most classes can be Drakkin, so I will not list them here.
Bard - may be Half Elf, Human, Vah Shir, and Wood Elf.
Bard is a funny class. In the old days creation was probably very important, today it isn't anything to fret over. I would pump everything into stamina and anything left over into strength or dex. If you wanted every edge on charming later, you could put some in charisma but this would be really a reach. HP > all at low levels.
Beastlord - may be Barbarian, Iksar, Ogre, Troll, or Vah Shir.
I highly recommend 25 in stamina and 5 in wisdom, strength or dexterity. You are a melee class primarily with pets. If you want to focus more on spells, and some people do, split your points between wisdom and stamina evenly. But, I don't recommend that until later levels.
Berserker - may be Barbarian, Dwarf, Ogre, Troll, and Vah Shir.
You'll get tired of hearing this. Everything into stamina and any left over into strength or dexterity. I personally would take leftovers in strength because your weapon will always be the biggest, heaviest, nastiest thing you can lay hands on. But, you could split it up if you like. It won't matter in the long run, but in the early levels, you will do nothing but test your health against mobs. Take all the stamina you can.
Cleric - may be Dark Elf, Dwarf, Froglok, Gnome, Halfling, High Elf, Human.
This one is easy. Your mana pool is what makes you tick. Wisdom makes your mana pool tick. 25 wisdom and 5 stamina. You can take 5 strength instead if you're a weak race and hate running back and forth.
Druid - may be Halfling, Half-Elf, Human, and Wood Elf.
Same as cleric. 25 wisdom, 5 stamina. Same reasons.
Enchanter - May be Dark Elf, Erudite, Gnome, High Elf, Human.
Enchanters, like all cloth casters are mana dependant. Intelligence drives your mana. You could then take 5 stamina, which I recommend, or you could go for every little edge in charming/CCing and take 5 in Charisma. You're going to get hit a lot as an enchanter. Take the hitpoints. 25 intelligence 5 stamina (recommended) or 5 charisma.
Magician - May be Dark Elf, Erudite, Gnome, High Elf, Human.
Similar to Enchanter but easier decisions. 25 Intelligence and 5 Stamina. That's it. No reason to take anything else really. You will have your pet and you will be meleeing it beside it to start. Later on the 25 intelligence worth of mana will help more than anything else. Ditto the bit of stamina. Don't take 5 str. At level 6 you can summon 100 percent weight reducing bags.
Monk - May be Iksar, Human.
In the early levels, you are no different than any other primary melee. Take 25 stamina and 5 agility or strength. Agility is important early on to monks. Even a little weight begins to affect their armor class significantly. But, in early levels, take the 5 in agility, dexterity or strength and rest assured, you made a fine choice. I personally would probably do strength or agility and lose no sleep over it.
Necromancer - May be Dark Elf, Erudite, Gnome, Iksar, Human.
Necromancers pretty much could choose anything and in later levels they will be fine. But, in the low levels only, sometimes necromancers will struggle with mana. Therefore take 25 intelligence, and 5 stamina. If you are concerned about being a human pack mule due to a very low strength, take 5 in strength. For example, if your strength is under 75, you'll get encumbered pretty fast looting weapons, etc..
Paladin - May be Dwarf, Erudite, Froglok, Gnome, Halfling, High Elf, Human.
Paladins are nothing but tanks that can start casting some stun/light damage spells early on. Put everything in stamina. You can mix that formula up some if you like. But, you'll be matching your hitpoints up against the mobs in the early levels. Later on levels and gear will take over to pump your melee stats. If you just don't like that idea, put a few points into strength or dex or something. But, I recommend just pumping that health.
Ranger - May be Halfling, Half Elf, Human, Wood Elf.
Mana isn't a huge need in the early levels. I recommend all melee stats. Put all your points in stamina. If you have any leftover, put them in dex or strength.
Rogue - May be Barbarian, Dark Elf, Dwarf, Froglok, Gnome, Half Elf, Human, Vah Shir, Wood Elf.
You will become a feared dealer of death in later levels. At the start, you are just a melee class. Take 25 stamina and 5 strength or dexterity. Take agility if the others aren't satisfying for your last 5. If I'm making this boring it's intentional. The game gets very involved, but at the start, your health will matter more than anything.
Shadowknight - May be Dark Elf, Erudite, Froglok, Gnome, Human, Iksar, Ogre, Troll.
You'll care about your mana/intelligence at some point. Creation isn't that point. Add all your points to stamina. Nothing else. If you MUST branch out, take from dex, agility and strength.
Shaman - May be Barbarian, Froglok, Iksar, Human, Ogre, Troll, Vah Shir.
As versatile as you are, you are a caster. 25 points in wisdom and the rest in stamina. Put 5 in strength instead if you are concerned about being over-encumbered too often. Wisdom = mana = your lifeblood.
Warrior - May be Barbarian, Dark Elf, Dwarf, Froglok, Gnome, Half Elf, Halfling, Iksar, Ogre, Troll, Vah Shir, Wood Elf.
Can you see this coming? No matter what you want to do, put 25 points into stamina. If you cannot BEAR the simplicity, put 5 in strength or something. Your health is not only your life, but in late levels, the life of your group.
Wizard - May be Dark Elf, Erudite, Froglok, Gnome, High Elf, Human.
Wizards turn mana into fast paced bursts of doom. But, they will get hit a lot as a result. Mana and hitpoints is all you care about. 25 intelligence and 5 stamina. If you like, you can take a touch more health to survive. But, long-term, you'll be alive, or you'll be dead. Take the mana is my recommendation via intelligence.
SOME FINAL CONSIDERATIONS TO REMEMBER
1. Your race isn't really important other than a few hp out of thousands later in the game. But, it will matter some in the early stages. Ogres will have the most hit points at level 1. Erudites will have the most mana for intelligence-based casters when starting out, and high elves will have the most mana of all wisdom-based casters in the VERY beginning. No false promises, that's the way it is. But, early differences are irrelevant later in the game when gear overwhelms them. Yes, if a gnome warrior and an ogre warrior are not maxed in their stats and have identical gear, the ogre will have like a tiny fraction of a percent more health. But, it's irrelevant. Please trust me on this. Play whatever you want. Therefore I'm going to ignore all questions of min/maxing because they are not really present in EQ anymore. If you want to play a gnome paladin, go for it. You'll stand out.
2. Being an evil race does make a difference. If you are a Dark Elf, Ogre, Troll, Iksar, or a shadowknight or necromancer of any race, you are considered evil and all the good races of norrath will consider you kill on sight. However, that is much less important in today's Everquest. With the addition of the Plane of Knowledge and other areas, this won't really matter. Just please keep it in mind as you travel about any populated areas. If you level solely in the TSS fast track (the serpent's spine expansion designed for fast leveling and questing), your race will not matter at all.
3. Group availability and Hot Zones. Some classes need groups more than others. But, how hard is it to get a group? I'll be frank with you, that's largely going to be up to you. If you are a go getter, you will have a lot more groups than others. If you are a reasonable, polite, yet effective player, you will be in groups more than someone that isn't. It will also depend on your level of the game and your sever. But, if grouping is critical to your enjoyment of EQ, you need to be prepared for the reality that EVERQUEST IS A TOP HEAVY GAME. It's been around a long time and there are a lot of people with high level characters. There are people playing at all levels, but the most important thing you can do is to know where the current hot zones are. Go to the ones for your level and you will likely see people there.
4. Do I need a guild? No, you don't need anything in Everquest except your sense of adventure. But, for most of us, it adds a lot. Choosing a guild is one of the more important choices you will make in EQ. Sure, you can always move on, but after so many times of doing so, that becomes undesirable and noted. The keys to a guild for you, are matching what you want out of the game with what that guild provides. If you are an explorer, join one of the few old timers guilds that just love the lore of Norrath and keep exploring. If you like to have access to groups all the time to grind quickly, then find a guild that is well spread through the levels and has a focused player base. Hardcore raiding is something that won't happen until you're already familiar with how EQ works, so don't worry about it. Yes, this can be a daunting choice, but don't be afraid to seek out those people and ask if you might group with some of them to learn more about the guild. You'll hear no, but sometimes you will also hear yes. That alone will tell you a lot.
5. You have a lot of learning ahead of you. Everquest has a lot of systems and quirks that are like no other game. But, the essence of the game is simple. It's only the execution that can be more difficult. You will not be led by the hand here. You will be confused at times. You will get lost. You will die while lost. You will die while getting back to where you got lost. BUT... there's a lot of tools now that will help you with all these problems. There are online sites that help you discipher any quests that confuse you. You can get a full package of maps of every area in the game (lots of high traffic areas already have a basic map), with tons of details. You can buy a stone in the guild lobby to summon your body there and not have to run. More than likely there's more than 1 cleric standing around that can rez you also. The point is, Everquest asks you to participate much more than other games. Be prepared for that. Don't be afraid to read the other guides here even if they don't appear to have anything of interest to you.
6. If you are ever truly confused, do a /who all 80 class name and ask a few people for assistance with your questions. You'll find a helpful person. You will also want to do some reading about EQ and your chosen class and spells. On the same page as this guide are tons of great links to answer more questions than you will have in your lifetime.
Good luck, and welcome to Norrath,
Guild Leader, Appotus Dominus