I don't have any advice on playing a champion, as it's one of the few classes I have never played. As a dwarf, you can explore and quest through Ered Luin until the mid-teens, then head to Breeland and quest there into the low 20s. Bree is usually pretty busy, so getting help on a group quest, or just needing a question answered is easy there.
It had an excellent community though...until they went FTP. Then, not so much.
That may have been true right after the first rush of F2P people last September, but I'd say 99% of the chat trolls and general morons are long gone. On the server I play on, the community is back to its normal friendly demeanor.