And so I rolled a Draenei shaman in the World of Warcraft; I've always loved the shaman class, but most of my friends play Alliance characters - I like hybrids in general, I have a night elf druid and dwarf paladin currently poking their noses into the Outlands - therefore my experience of the class was limited to a level twenty Tauren shaman that I solo'd for fun one day when I was bored.
My shaman is coming along quite nicely. I would consider myself a softcore player: I like to make a bit of progress when I'm playing my characters, but I'm not fanatical and have no need to play ten hours a day, seven days a week. Recently then, my shaman has reached the level where he needs to make his way into the wider world outside of the Azuremyst Isles. This is hinted at by various NPCs around the land: 'You have grown strong my child, there are few challenges here for one such as you any more', and one not so subtle one 'Take this letter down to the docks, get on the boat to Auberdine, and GET THE HELL OFF MY ISLAND!'.
So, tail between his legs, and vowing never to do any quests for that NPC again, my shaman headed off to the wider world. And this is where the game got a little weird for me. As I mentioned, I have a level sixty night elf druid and a level sixty dwarf paladin and so I'm not exactly unfamiliar with questing in Alliance lands, but when I left the boat and walked into Auberdine everything felt really weird. I was a stranger. The places were familiar, the NPCs I'd seen many a time before, but coming here as a Draenei, especially after having reached level twenty in 'my own lands', I felt completely out of place. The feeling only grew stronger as I made the run to Ironforge.
The Auberdine to Ironforge run (or The Grass is Greener Gauntlet, named so by me, because it's usually run by low level characters that want to quest in foreign lands, because it’s ‘better’) is a well known trip: from Auberdine you take the boat to Menethil Harbour, grab the gryphon point there, and then run through the Wetlands trying to avoid being eaten by a train of the many angry high level reptiles, as you wave at people doing the run in the opposite direction with a bask of crocolisks hanging from their bum. Having been spat out by numerous venomous beasts (which you vow on your bank alt's cash reserve you'll be back to slaughter and turn into a variety of saleable items, just as soon as you work out which profession you're going to take), you make your way in to the Loch Modan area. Grab the gryphon point at Thelsamar and then run through Dun Morogh until you reach, and go line-dead, at the mighty gates of Lagforge. Ironforge, sorry.
Thankfully my shaman was of a high enough level that, should any of the local wildlife try to instigate an ambush and chase (always listen for when the non-aggressive mobs start humming the Benny Hill theme tune, it’s such a giveaway) he could dispatch them in short order, and then whip-up a nice crocolisk pouch and matching belt - all the rage in Stormwind's Mage Quarter, apparently. The feeling of being a stranger in familiar lands continued, though, and in fact grew stronger. I knew all the places, I'd been here before; I'd been here as a Night Elf and yet it didn't feel strange then; but the culture of the draenei, the starter area, the lore that is expounded when you do quests there, and the lack of very many other races for much of your time there, really makes you feel... alien. Which is exactly what Blizzard were aiming for, I suppose. I was, however, quite surprised by how much it affected me, and having reached Ironforge I hearthstoned back to the familiar surroundings of the inn at Blood Watch on Azuremyst and felt immediately at home again.
Eventually my shaman will have to venture out to the foreign lands (that angry NPC is still on the lookout for any PCs on his island, and he seems to have a pitchfork and a west country accent now) and deal with all the strange creatures that dwell there: the drunken ones with the big beards, the aloof ones with the pointy ears, and the diminutive ones with the very disconcerting dance moves.
Until then, I think I'll take a trip to the Seat of the Naaru, and wallow in the comforting delights of the prettiest city in all of Azeroth.