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Who are you?

The first - and most important - step in any massively multiplayer online RPG is creating your character. The good news: Final Fantasy XI is the most flexible of any MMOs, and is designed so that players won't need a stable of different characters. Because of that, you'd better pick one you want to stick with for a while.

A character is defined by his or her race, nation and job. Lets figure out who you want to be and where you should start - and teach you how to get your friends in on the action.

Race

Unlike most MMOs, Final Fantasy XI is built so that players will never want or need a second character, except maybe to hold extra items. Your character's race is just about the only permanent decision you'll ever have to make, so choose wisely. Five races live in Vana'diel. Just as you expect, each has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Hume
Humes are ... human. Like all fantasy humans, they are well-rounded and have average stats, making them good candidates for any job. Their most remarkable trait is how unremarkable they are.

Elvaan
It's a fantasy, so you've got to have elves, right? The Elvaan are physically resilient and strong, but their gangly limbs and long necks hinder their dexterity, and their magical power isn't the best. Elvaan are ideally suited to hands-on fighting jobs and protecting other players, but they're serviceable in any job with the right gear.

Mithra
The pin-ups of Vana'diel, this cat-like race's matriarchal traditions only allow females to adventure. Extremely agile, Mithra have the highest natural dexterity and agility of any of the races. Though other players hit on them often, they can't take many hits from monsters and have average magical ability. While their base stats make them the best Thieves and Rangers, they can strut their stuff in any job.

Galka
These muscular hulks are the least popular race in Vana'diel and are the most inflexible of the five races, but their particular advantages are striking. Their massive bodies give them a huge stockpile of hit points, vitality and other important stats for giving and taking damage. Sadly, their tiny noggins make them poor mages without all but the best gear.

Tarutaru
Vana'diel's jokesters, the adorable Tarutaru are both comedy relief and magical powerhouses. Their tiny bodies may be frail, but their swollen brains can dispense some serious hurt, thanks to their massive mana pools and high Intelligence. Tarutarus make better fighters than Galkas make mages, but Tarutaru remain best-suited to magical jobs.

Cities

Vana'diel is controlled by three nations: the Republic of Bastok, the Kingdom of San d'Oria and the Federation of Windurst. Though all three have been allied since defeating the Shadow Lord in the great war 20 years ago, they are still in friendly competition for the land and its resources.

While the nation you pick isn't exactly important, it can enhance your enjoyment of the game as you begin. Each nation has its own distinctive storyline and missions, and a few pieces of exclusive gear available to them.

If you pick a nation that is home to your character's race, you'll be rewarded with a useful magical ring as you start your adventure. This will be quickly chucked, though, so it shouldn't be the basis of your decision, as you won't be able to change nations anytime soon.

The best way to decide? Pick the one that looks coolest to you and enjoy it.

The Republic of Bastok
Native Races: Hume, Galka

Set in the harsh, mineral-rich Gustaberg wastelands, the Republic of Bastok is a nation of engineering and ingenuity. Home to the Hume and Galka races, Bastok's architecture is stark and functional. The nation is famed for its technology, craftsmanship and science, and is home to the world-famous engineer Cid and the Smithing, Goldsmithing and Alchemy guilds.

The Federation of Windurst
Native Races: Tarutaru, Mithra

Once vicious warlords, the adorable Tarutaru have shed their violent ways and now strive to live in peace and harmony - including futile negotiations with the local Beastmen. Windurst lies in a vast magical savanna, but recently the magic in the area has been on the decline. This creates various problems for the nation and its ruler, the tiny but prophetic Star Sibyl. Windurst is home to the Clothcrafter's, Boneworker's and Culinarian guilds.

The Kingdom of San d'Oria
Native Races: Elvaan

The Kingdom of San d'Oria has seen better times. Their Beastman rivals, the Orcish, have established a stronghold in the heart of their lands, and royal squabbles concern the citizens. San d'Oria itself is a medieval fantasy mainstay, with gray stone castles and houses inside high walls, and is home to the chivalrous Elvaan - who hate outsiders. The abundant forests and mountains of the Ronfaure region provide materials for San d'Oria's famous Woodworking, Leatherworking and Smithing guilds.

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