Non-Gamer's Guide to This Post
If you leave a character in an inn or major city while you aren't playing, they will be "resting." This means that when you get back to your character, they will get 200% experience from all monsters that they kill until a certain point. The longer you rest, the further along your experience bar this "point" will be.
You do not lose your rest at any time, and there is no "window of opportunity" to kill monsters. (It is not timed.) Quest experience just bumps the resting point up (quest experience never counts toward your 200%, but it doesn't interfere with it, either).
There is a cap at ~2 levels.
The 200% experience is gone when you reach the marked point on your bar (the bar will be faintly blue and will say that you get 200% normal experience when you scroll over it). There are no tricks to it. It doesn't disappear if you log out before you've reached the marked point.
This was implemented to help players keep up with their friends even when they can't play as often.
Well, it seems like my family and friends have all settled in on the horde side for the 30-70 stretch. So, while I love Birdfall, I'm going to have mostly Dustfire stories for a while. I keep trying to goad my husband into saying we won't abandon our Alliance characters forever, but all he can say is "There's so much to do after level 70! Isn't it exciting?!"
Which is noncommittal.
For me, at least, I'm not giving up on any of my alliance characters. They're little people to me, with fun little backgrounds, and I'm not destroying them. Not now, not ever.
And when I get back to them, they'll be extraordinarily well rested. I mean, wow, an hour of grinding will probably get them all to 40.
But let's talk about Alliance vs. Horde. What's the deal with this hatred?
Humans (Alliance): Lots of war with orcs and the Burning Legion, where they lost their mightiest city, Lordaeron. "They stand resolute in their charge to maintain the honor and might of humanity in an ever-darkening world."
Night Elves (Alliance): "The Night Elves' reckless use of magic drew the Burning Legion into the world and led to a catastrophic war between the two titanic races. . . . As a race, Night Elves are typically honorable and just, but they are very distrusting of the 'lesser races' of the world. They are nocturnal by nature and their shadowy powers often elicit the same distrust that they have for their mortal neighbors."
Dwarves (Alliance): "In past ages, the Dwarves rarely left the safety of their mountain fortresses. However, whenever the call to battle sounded, they rose up to defend their friends and allies with unmatched courage and valor. Due to a recent discovery that uncovered fragments of their ancient origins, the Dwarves have undergone a remarkable transformation. The discovery convinced the Dwarves that the mighty Titans created them from stone when the world was young. They feel that their destiny is now to search the world over for more signs and proof of their enchanted heritage and to rediscover the Titans' hidden legacies."
Gnomes (Alliance): "They refused to send any personnel to aid their allies during the Burning Legion's recent invasion. Though their designs helped turn the tide against the Legion, the Dwarves and Humans were shocked by the Gnomes' decision to withhold their courageous troops and pilots. When the war ended, the Alliance discovered the reason for the Gnomes' sudden withdrawal. Apparently, an ancient, barbaric menace had risen from the bowels of the earth and invaded Gnomeregan. Knowing that their allies' priority was defeating the Burning Legion, the Gnomes decided to make their stand alone. Though they fought valiantly to save their beloved city, Gnomeregan was irrevocably lost." They now live with the Dwarves.
Draenei (Alliance): After crash-landing their spaceship on Azeroth a month ago, the Draenei joined the alliance. "Dedicated to preserving life and upholding the tenets of the Holy Light, the draenei hope to gather a new coalition of warriors to battle the Burning Legion and put a halt to its horrific Burning Crusade."
Undead (Horde): The Forsaken. Having rebelled against the "tyrannical rule of the Lich King, a renegade group of undead seek to retain their own free will while destroying all those who oppose them. . . . These dark warriors have established a secret stronghold beneath the ruins of Lordaeron. . . . Holding no real loyalty for their [horde] comrades, the Forsaken have duped them into fighting against their common enemy - the Lich King."
Trolls (Horde): "Barbarous and superstitious, the wily Trolls carry a seething hatred for all other races. One tribe, however, was forced to overcome its prejudices when it encountered the Orc Warchief, Thrall, and his mighty Horde. The Trolls of the Darkspear tribe, long since exiled from their ancestral lands in Stranglethorn Vale, were nearly destroyed by a band of aquatic Murlocs, but Thrall and the Horde managed to save them. In return the grateful Trolls swore an oath of eternal allegiance to the Horde. . . . As part of the Horde, the Trolls have extended their loyalty to the mighty Tauren, but they have little trust for the manipulative Forsaken, whom they believe will visit only misery and strife upon their allies."
Tauren (Horde): "They live to serve nature and maintain the balance between the wild things of the land and the restless spirit of the elements. Despite their enormous size and brute strength, the remarkably peaceful Tauren cultivate a quiet, tribal society. . . . The Tauren allied themselves with the Orcs during the invasion of the Burning Legion. The two races have remained steadfast allies ever since. Like the Orcs, the Tauren struggle to retain their sense of tradition and noble identity."
Orcs (Horde): "Born on the hellish world of Draenor, the Orcs were brought into the kingdom of Stormwind through the dimensional gateway known as the Dark Portal and forced to wage war on the Humans. . . . The Orcs once cultivated a noble, Shamanistic society on the world of Draenor. Tragically, the proud Orc clans were corrupted by the Burning Legion and used as pawns in the Legion's invasion of Azeroth. The Orcs managed to rebel, however, and they were ultimately able to help turn the tide against their demon masters. Led by the young Warchief, Thrall, the Orcs have reclaimed their strength and honor. Now, the Orcs stand ready to fight not for the sake of conquest, but for their right to survive in their adopted world."
Blood Elves (Horde): "For nearly seven thousand years, the high elves cultivated a shining magical kingdom deep within the forests of northern Lordaeron." The Scourge invaded and destroyed the Sunwell, the source of the high elves' arcane magic. "Though the scars of that conflict are evident, the remaining elves have banded together and retaken much of their homeland. Calling themselves 'blood elves', these grim survivors are committed to regaining the vast powers they once commanded."
For the most part, as you can see, the alliance and horde have a mutual enemy in the Burning Legion. For the horde, however, it is personal. They have been used by the Burning Legion against their will. Now, they rebel, but the alliance still wages war on the horde races, perhaps not realizing that the horde is just trying to survive and protect it's people.
In this, alliance and horde are much the same. Though alliance seems to be more about truth, justice, and light, the horde has fallen into more human dilemmas -- using each other (undead), struggling to reclaim honor and identity (troll/orc/tauren), and just working on their next magic fix (blood elves). Both sides have formed alliances of necessity, and the horde are not altogether evil for doing what they must to survive.
In other news, why does horde do so well on battlegrounds? (Particularly Arathi Basin.) I posed this to Kbone, a Warcraft veteran who had played PVP on alliance and done so well that he managed to auction off his account when he quit (for much less than my husband said he could have gotten for it), a former member of Zuluhed's alliance guild, Brimstone, and who once soloed Avalanchion in Azshara and his three adds (a 2-3 person quest) when nobody thought he could. Now that he's back, he plays horde with his real life friends.
Kbone said, essentially, that it was because horde attracts better players -- older, more experienced, and more serious about the game. Most new players join alliance, so the overall percentage of hardcore players on horde is much higher.
(So, in any given battleground, you're much more likely to get a whole team of good horde players than you are to get a whole team of good alliance players, because of the high discrepancy in good-to-bad player ratio.)
I agree with this, and not just because of personal experience. Most people like to play characters that they find aesthetic, and Alliance characters are the most conventionally attractive. I've always thought that it took a strong dedication to the game to roll horde, and a very serious gaming mindset.
After all, even if a bunch of naked orcs did decide to dance in Orgrimmar, who would want to watch?