Chapter 1: Who You Are
Character creation is fairly straight forward, but you do have a lot of options. Appearances and name, I will leave to you. The race question in the end boils down to What do I want to look like? because you can (almost) freely distribute and redistribute your attribute points to any of the 6 stats.
Class is again mostly preference, as you can change any time you like, though I would suggest against starting as a Blacksmith or Armorer for one reason: fire crystals. While this means little to you now, every low-level synth (crafting recipe) for these two classes requires fire crystals or NPC/player purchased items, and fire crystals are very difficult to acquire at low levels.
Chapter 2: Guardian and Homeland
So now you may be asking yourself, what about the Guardian? And my birthday? Well as of beta neither had any effect on your character aside from having a guardian giving you the option to activate Guardian's Aspect on regional (combat/collecting) levequests, which costs 10 guardian favor (regenerates over time) and increases the skill xp you get from the target of the guildleve.
Which starting city you pick is mostly a personal preference as well, as all three cities are easily reached from one another, and the guilds in the cities had no real purpose in beta for low rank characters.
I will say in my experience Limsa Lominsa is the most newbie friendly, with easy-to-reach mob spawns, less high level aggressives in the starting area, and no poison. The downside to Limsa is the city is a little bit of a maze, and moles are kind of irritating since they tend to burrow and hit you hard unless you run away right before you can kill them.
Gridania's zones are very narrow, making it difficult to slip past high level aggressives and has mobs which can poison you, which is nasty at low ranks. (I also ran across a rank 10 leatherworking guidleve in Gridania that was literally impossible to finish due to it being at a camp that is completely blocked off by mobs that hit for over 1300 on a rank 17 Pugilist and are aggressive with long range.)
Ul'Dah has high level aggressive mobs scattered all around the starting city, but is wide open so it's easy to avoid them. In beta there was a distinct shortage of mob spawn clusters, though. All three are perfectly survivable once you get used to their quirks.
Quest completed? Got your reward from the guild helper NPC? Great. Now, you can do Guildleves!
Chapter 1: From Strength to Piety
From your menu, Actions and Traits allows you to change your abilities. In the beta, by default, no abilities showed in the list on the right. You have to select a job from the drop-down menu above it first. You get 1 more point allowed per rank in your class, and can equip any ability you have earned from any class at any time, as long as you're in passive mode.
As for your attributes and elements:
Strength - increases damage with melee weapons
Dexterity - increases accuracy with all weapons AND weaponskills (this includes things like Radiance and Spirit Dart)
Vitality - increases HP and physical defense
Mind - increases MP, healing efficacy and magic defense
Intelligence - increases spell damage
Piety - increases spell accuracy
NOTE: people have claimed dex raises evasion, while the game claims vitality raises physical defense, and mind raises magic defense...but I've seen absolutely zero effect from my experimenting, and certainly no difference on the attributes screen, so I'm assuming that's wrong, at least as of beta.
Chapter 2: The Elements
The elements supposedly increase your attack and defense with and against the respective elements, but I've noticed no difference on the defense side, so this may be another thing coming with release. There IS a noticeable effect, though, with shard gained by combat/gathering. More points in the corresponding element increases the number of shards dropped when they drop, but does not increase likelihood of that type of shard dropping. For instance, a level 1 character may get 1 earth shard from a sewer mole, whereas I was getting 6 on average from them at level 23.
You can reassign both of these about every 30 minutes, with the amount able to be reassigned being a formula/number that hasn't been pinpointed yet, but the percentage you can reassign in relation to your total goes down as you level up, so keep this in mind.
And a quick note on classes. You can change at any time you are not in combat just by changing what you have equipped in your Main slot (aka weapon slot).
Chapter 1: Regional Leves
To begin a regional leve, you must go to the Aetheryte (the big glowy crystal in the middle of the camp) at the camp the leve mentions, go to your menu, select Aetheryte, and Initiate Levequest. You then get a list of leves for that camp, and can select at your leisure. Leves typically seem to be limited to 30 minutes, and have variable difficulties. Solo being, obviously, the easiest, while legion is pretty rough on less than 3 people of the same rank as the leve. There are exceptions, of course: for example, leves with Imps and Dodos can be far harder than other leves, thanks to Imps casting insanely damaging spells and Dodos throwing around status effects like water. Upon completion, an Aetheryte Node will appear. Activate it like you did the Aetheryte crystal, and you can complete the leve.
Chapter 2: Local Leves
To begin a local leve you must speak to the NPC mentioned in the description (sometimes, not always, but it's easier to do it just to be sure) to get the materials required. Then you equip the tool for that craft, go to the menu, select Synthesize, wait for the UI to catch up, select Request Items, wait for the UI to catch up, select the leve, confirm it, wait for the UI to catch up, select Main of Off hand (some recipes are easier with offhand tools, some with main hand. Nobody's really figured out which to use with which recipe, though), wait for the UI, then...crafting minigame! I won't go into detail here since crafting is pretty complicated, but for crafting leves at first just use Rapid. You'll fail a lot less. Once you've made all the items (if you failed to make enough the leve simply disappears) go talk to the NPC mentioned in the description, and you get your reward.
A quick note on quality for crafting leves: high quality items raises your rating for the leve by approximately 1/2 item quality, and getting a high rating gives better rewards. The first cut-off point is 100, which typically just gives you another item for the reward. I'm not sure what the next cut-off is as a lack of higher rank tools made making good quality items kind of a pain in beta.
Edit: I picked up a copy of the CE pre-order on ebay (so my fiancee can have my SE preorder and I can still play), so in a couple days I'll be updating this and adding images to make it easier to understand.
Edited, Sep 23rd 2010 1:58pm by Kevrlet