In the world of Final Fantasy XI, known as Vana'Diel, your objective, besides dazzling yourself at the scenery you explore, is to battle the monsters that had engulfed the planet with the power of darkness. They had previously been defeated by mankind in a horrible war.
You begin as a character of one of five races; the Hume (or Human), who are the all-around balanced type, the Tarutaru, who are small, cute and magically-inclined, the Elvaan, a tall race and superb warriors, the Mithra, a Matriarchal race of female cat-like individuals with great agility, and finally, the Galka, who are huge, towering ogres who, not surprisingly, are skilled in using their own broad limbs as their weapons.
Your character will also have a job, one of six starting jobs; the Warrior, specializing in hand-to-hand combat, the Monk, skilled in the martial arts, the White Mage, who uses healing magic, the Black Mage, who uses attack spells, the Red Mage, who can use both Black and White spells (although not as quickly) along with the ability to wield weapons, and lastly, the Thief, whose stealthiness and agility contribute to its superb ability in stealing items or gil from monsters.
When reaching a certain level, you will be given the option to select another job and set it as your sub job. Your sub job will be half of what your current main job is. The experience from battle that you will receive will continue to be given to your main job, not your sub job. The only thing you get from your sub job is the skills that are learned in that job up to that level. The main job affects your stats (Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, Aglilty, Intelligence, Mind, and Charisma), your skills, the items you can wear, etc.
After making your character, you will be sent to a random server. If you want to go on the same one as your friend, one of you must give the other a world pass. A world pass is a password, able to be used up to five times, and can be bought in the market. The password must be typed in during the character creation process, meaning you will have to start a new character; this is why you have to do it in the beginning, before you have already started your character on the other server.
The world of Vana'Diel consists of three huge kingdoms along with numerous villages inbetween. The kingdoms are as follows; the Republic of Bastok, home of the Humes and Galkas, the Federation of Windurst, home of the Tarutarus and Mithras, and the Kingdom of San D'oria, home of the Elvaan. Although your race will have a kingdom in which it is native to, you will be able to choose which kingdom to start in. This decision should be made somewhat carefully, because trying to traverse on foot from one kingdom to another takes several hours, if you even make it there alive.
Your character can join one of five guilds, where you specialize in finding/creating items to sell for gil. They include; the Culinarians' Guild, specializing in cooking foods, the Blacksmiths' Guild, specializing in forging heavy armors of metal, the Boneworkers' Guild, specializing in crafting items from bone, the Fishermans' Guild, specializing in the art of fishing, and the Carpenters' Guild, specializing in woodworking.
Crystals, which can be found in a rare occurance from a fight, number at eight, and include the Fire, Ice, Earth, Wind, Thunder, Water, Darkness, and Light elements. Each crystal is a raw material to manufacture items in one of the six synthesis skills, including; Blacksmithing, Sewing, Alchemy, Woodworking, Jewelry, and Leather Tanning. Specializing in one or two synthesis skills and their corresponding trade guilds is ideal.
Upon reaching the level 30, you will be allowed to complete certain quests that will allow you to chose among 5 additional 'advanced' jobs. They include the Paladin, who is skilled in using shields, and masters of white magic (great for protecting allies), the Dark Knight, who, as an opposite of the Paladin, is skilled in the offensively-inclined dark magics, and wield powerful scythes, the Ranger, skilled in using long-ranged bow-type weapons, the Beast Master, skilled in taming enemy monsters and using them against other enemies, and lastly, the Bard, who use wooden instuments to create music that can have various effects on an enemy monster.
Final Fantasy XI is not just about fighting monsters and leveling; it is an online community, allowing one to team up and explore in groups, experience adventures, and create new friendships.