FWIW, you can just post these kinds of questions to the main WoW discussion thread. We’re always happy to have fresh blood. (Not to mention, you’ll stand the best chance of catching the attention of all the SDMB WoW players there.)
There are ten classes in WoW. Here’s a very, *very *basic rundown of each class. For ranged DPS, I specify physical or magical, in the sense of whether you’ll be casting spells (magical) or using a ranged weapon that shoots arrows or bullets (physical).
Death Knight: Tank or melee DPS. Plate armor. One spec has the option of a permanent pet. Starts at level 55 and only available once you have at least one 55+ character and the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
Druid: Tank, healer, melee DPS, or ranged DPS (magical). Leather armor.
Hunter: Ranged DPS (physical). Leather armor, upgraded to Mail at 40. Pet class.
Mage: Ranged DPS (magical). Cloth armor. One spec has the option of a permanent pet.
Paladin: Tank, healer, or melee DPS. Mail armor, upgraded to Plate at 40.
Priest: Healer or ranged DPS (magical). Cloth armor.
Rogue: Melee DPS. Leather armor.
Shaman: Healer, ranged DPS (magical), or melee DPS. Leather armor, upgraded to Mail at 40.
Warlock: Ranged DPS (magical). Pet class. Cloth armor.
Warrior: Tank or melee DPS. Mail armor, upgraded to Plate at 40.
From the phrasing “ranged fighter,” he’ll probably want to start with a Hunter. Because they’re designed as a pet class and they don’t currently get their first pet until level 10*, the first few levels can be a little bit frustrating. Ranged weapons (guns, bows, and crossbows) have a “dead zone”–they can’t be used against a target in melee range. So without a pet–or a friend–to tank for you, you’re stuck using melee weapons for a little while, which is a bit clumsy. (On the plus side, since you’re planning to play together, you can be his tank, which should make things a lot easier. Too, the first 10 levels go very quickly these days.)
*That’s changing with Cataclysm.
1.) Subscribe to the thread I linked at the start of this post. There are a lot of us on the Dope who’d be more than happy to answer any questions that come up as you play!
2.) Bookmark the following sites:
WoWWiki: Great for any kind of information that’s best coming from an encyclopedia. This involves everything from how professions work to the lore behind an NPC.
Wowhead: A giant database of quests, NPCs, items, zones, etc. If you want to know the ingredients for a recipe, what mob (a “mob” is a single hostile NPC) drops a quest item, or where to find a good upgrade for a slot, this is the best place to look. An older alternative is Thottbot, but IMO their interface isn’t as nice and the comments are much more spammy and less helpful.
Curse: When you start getting the itch to customize things or add extra functionality, you’ll want to download and install addons. Curse is where I get all of mine.
WoW Insider: Articles are aimed at everything from hardcore endgame raiders to people starting their very first character. Lots of good beginners guides.
If you’re looking for other people to play with off the bat (although I see you mentioned some other friends), you could consider rolling Horde characters on the Cairne server. There’s a guild there composed mainly of SDMB posters and lurkers, called <Burning Dog Legion>.
If you want to play a Horde Paladin, your only racial option right now is Blood Elf. For a Horde Hunter, the Troll race can be a good choice–for example, you have an extra 1% chance to crit with bows and the ability to increase your attack speed temporarily.
In general, there are three things to consider:
1.) Racial abilities. Each race has bonuses that are unique to that race. For example, my Night Elf main has an ability called Shadowmeld, which allows me to enter a kind of stealth (which is obscenely useful when I’m on my own, as it causes me to drop combat, resetting anything that’s attacking me). Note, however, that these are slated for a major overhaul with Cataclysm.
2.) Appearance. Try flipping through the character creation screen and see what appeals to you.
3.) Lore. Skim through WoWWiki’s articles on each race. The lore behind each race may influence the kinds of quests you come across in your starting zone. (For example, I know a couple of people who literally abandoned the Undead characters they’d started because of a particularly unsavory little chain… which I personally enjoyed. :p)
Personally, I have one max-level character of each faction, and I enjoy playing both sides. Keep in mind that there is no in-game cross-faction communication, except by pre-scripted emotes. The only items that can be mailed cross-faction are ones that are bound to your account, and those can only be mailed between characters on the same account on the same realm. There is a way to transfer non-bound items between factions, but as this involves using the Goblin (neutral) Auction Houses, there’s some risk involved (i.e., if someone else happens to see the auction and buy it out first).