When you start out on a new server with World of Warcraft there are a few decisions to make. Most notable is the Player versus Player setting and the Roleplay setting. Look carefully at the server before you make your choice, because the wrong setting can get you killed or banned.
On a PvP server the default state is one of warfare. In a player v player server you are instantly flagged as soon as you enter a contested zone. There are basically three levels here. Green zones will leave you unflagged unless you actively attack a flagged PvP character, Yellow zones are fully contested, with all characters flagged the moment they enter combat, and Red zones are deadly areas where unflagged characters reside, can attack you, but you cannot attack them until they do so(Effectively gauranteeing them first strike).
The opposite of PvP is Player Versus Environment. On these servers the default is PvP off, and in most instances you need to turn it on manually(using the /pvp command). There are a few exceptions, such as entering an enemy capitol city or attacking a flagged enemy(obviously). PvE players can have characters of multiple factions, whereas PvP server players cannot.
The other server defined difference is roleplay. On a RP server all actions and speach should be ‘in character’. Conversely anything that is not done ‘as the character would’ is considered Out of Character and is typically tagged with (OOC) before the statement. It's worth noting that there appears to be very little official action to enforce RP on RP servers, however those who choose to play on them are usually pretty into their Roleplaying and tend to ignore the OOC actions of others.
RP servers come in both PvP and PvE versions.
Rob Dee admits to playing far too many games. After initial focus on power leveling he has spent much time developing and collecting guides and hints for World of Warcraft Players which can be found at his Warcraft for the People website.