Now that I've hopefully convinced you to try out alting (although I honestly think the vast majority of people have at least one serious alt), I'd like to continue by giving you some pointers on how to make the alting experience as smooth as possible. Here are a couple of things to think about;
- Using BoA gear will definitely make a lot of things easier, and you don't have to rely as much on drops in instances to feel like you do a good job. I usually level alts without BoA gear though, and don't worry, it's no problem at all.
- If you happen to level an alt on an off-server, here's a post on how to earn your first money.
- Leveling with a friend is a double-edged sword, something I've also written a post about.
Something I've often seen put people off their alts is their UI. Love has often played some character a couple of levels, but then abandons it with the next big patch, because he just can't be arsed to set the UI straight again. You will probably put a lot less time into your alt (except perhaps initially), which kind of is the definition of it being your alt and not your main. Therefor you want to make your alt as accessible as possible. You might take an hour to get everything right on your mains UI, but you probably won't do that with your alt, and especially not if you have to repeat the procedure with every next alt. This can easily be avoided! Make sure the UI you've got is easily copied. As an example I currently use Vuhdo as part of my UI, and whenever I start a new alt or start up an old one, I can just copy the settings from my main and voila, Vuhdo is set up. This takes one second. Even UIs that might be very customized like Dominos and Xperl have these features that will allow you to exactly copy the profile you have on another char. Fortunately most addons actually have these kind of features, so that usually isn't a problem.
You might use 100 addons on your main, but you rarely need that many on your alt. To not scare you off the first time you log in, by having the entire screen cluttered with addons that needs to be set up, you could turn all your addons off and then tick those you actually think you'll use. It also saves you loads of RAM to not load DBM on your level 35 hunter. Unless that is the purpose of your alt, you probably won't need addons that are specficially to facilitate crafting and/or auction housing. Alts tend to have a specific purpose - pvping, instancing, questing, herbing etc - try to only use addons that are aimed at helping you in those areas. It might sound troublesome to have to go through all your addons for your new alt, but on the other hand it is a one time thing and you'll be thankful you did afterwards.
Another really important thing when you get into the habit of switching between characters, is to keep your setups fairly equal among chars. I don't mean that your UI looks exactly the same from one character to the next, ultimately the UI has to fit the role you're playing. For instance I used different UI setups depending on whether I was on a tank/melee or healer/caster. This mainly meant I had the bars in different places and different settings for showing debuffs and party frames for example. But even if your UI looks different from one character to the next, your keybinding don't have to. There is nothing more dangerous than having completely arbitrary key setups on different characters. One good example is when I decided to use T as my autorun on some characters (so that I could use my old autorun, middle mouse, as ptt instead). T is otherwise my Mount button. So suddenly I had a couple of characters where T was autorun, and a couple where it was Mount. It did have me fall to my death plenty of times before I decided to fix it. I did write a post on how I've decided to set up my buttons, but the general idea is to have similar functions on the same key. Same things go with clique-bindings and mouse over macros of course.
For instance I've tried to have trinkets on my function keys on all my characters, also mitigation cooldowns like Shield Wall, Divine Protection, Barkskin and Icebound Fortitude to name a few. A is nearly always an interrupt, except for the classes that don't have it (on my priests A is Chakra or Smite). D are utility skills - I've got Leap of Faith and Death Grip on D. Similar bindings are more important on some skills than others of course - you want your reflexes to guide you to the right skill when you don't have the time to think and look down on your UI. It really sucks if you accidentally throw bubble on the tank just because that is the key for Guardian Spirit on your main. It really sucks if you shift out of bear form when tanking just because that key usually is your taunt button. It really sucks when you press dismount 100 yards up in the air just because that key is your autorun on other characters. Some things can't be helped though, like habitually dismounting midair because you're used to playing a druid. Having similar key structures will also allow you to faster get into the loop of things if you've been away from your alt for some time. Even if I don't play my resto shaman that often, I always know that my core heals are on the same bindings as they are on my holydin and priest which means I don't have to do much warm up before I can throw myself into action - that is really what you want to aim at with your alts.
If you really get into this alting thing (like me) there are more specific addons aimed at helping you sort out your alts. When you've got some 8 serious alts like me, it will become a hassle trying to keep track of who has done which instances, has got what materials, has how many emblems/points/tokens, has how much money and a ton of other things. Here are a couple of good addons to use if you like playing many different characters;
- SavedInstances: Allows you to see which instances your characters are saved to without having to relogg. I used this a lot back in Wrath when pugging raids became as common as doing heroic dungeons. When someone asked for last spot to VoA, I could just mouse-over SavedInstances to immediately know which character was already saved for it. Before I got SI I had to relogg each character manually going "oh no, shaman is saved... oh, warrior too... let's see the paladin". In Cata raid pugging hasn't become very prevalent, in fact I can't recall anyone pugging an entire raid yet, only guild runs who pug some last member. But there is BH, and with the 4.2 nerfs I am sure that raid pugging will be back again (which I think is good).
- Friends With Benefits: If you happen to be the social type, unlike me, and have loads of people you like to talk to on your friends list, it's quite the hassle having to add them on your friends list for every new alt you make. FWB saves you the trouble by simply copying your friends list from one character to the next. RealID has made this less of a problem since it already does this, but we don't always want the RealID of every nice guy we meet, eventhough we might add them to our friends list.
- ArkInventory: I can't believe I haven't made a post on this amazing addon already - I'll definitely get to that some day. ArkInventory allows you to set up the perfect bag for yourself, sorting out items exactly like you want it. It's mainly a bag-addon, but for alting purposes it quickly and easy shows you what's in the bags of other chars, what they are currently wearing, how much of an item you've got across your characters and just but everything else connected to your bag, money and gear.
- ACP (Addon Control Panel): Allows you to switch addons off and on in game, without having to relogg. This is useful because it can be difficult to exactly predict how your alts will need and use different addons.
- Altoholic: The name is pretty self explanatory. It does just about everything you could need when trying to coordinate a lot of alts, for example it can show you what mail your alts have waiting (which an addon like ArkIventory doesn't).
- Daily To-Do's: Commenter Hagu asked for an addon that would help him track dailies across different alts. Since I don't do dailies, I had completely forgotten about this little nuisance and how troublesome it can be to keep track of them all across varying chars, quite like with Saved Instances above. Commenter Eldhorn (Love) suggests Daily To-Do's, which will do exactly this - help you keep track of all your dailies across your different alts.