This is for all of the people out there that may have heard of Dungeons & Dragons or other RPGs and are curious as to what they are and what you need to start playing.
RPG (Role Playing Game) is, imagine your favorite movie. Now imagine that you and your friends get to play the characters in that movie, making all of the decisions and moving the plot forward to the final resolution. You will be the ones that go on the epic quest, solve the riddles, slay the dragon, and loot his treasure horde. Basically, you and your friends get to sit down together and create a story by playing something similar to board game. RPGs, like board games, are governed by rules and probability. There will be a book, or series of books, that explain the rules and setting for a given system, like Dungeons and Dragons or Vampire. Each of the players will create a character or persona that they will play the role of during the game. One person will take on the role of designer and referee, this person is typically called a GM (Game Master) or DM (Dungeon Master). The GM/DM's role is to learn the rules well and then use them to create a basic outline of an adventure that the player will go on. The GM/DM will also play all of the other characters and monsters that the players will encounter on their adventure. The players will then go on the adventure created by the GM/DM, making decisions governed by the games rules and using dice rolls to determine the success of their actions. When an adventure has concluded, the players are awarded experience points that they can use to improve their character's abilities and powers. If the players and GM continue to play the same characters over the course of several adventures, then this is typically referred to as a campaign.
Now that you know the basics of what an RPG is and how one is played, here is what you will need to get started:
1) Friends - Your will need at least two other players, preferably four or five, to play the game with you. You can run a game with as little as one other person, but it usually isn't anywhere near as much fun.
2)Books - Every system has at least one core rule book, some may divide the system into two or three books, one for players, one for GMs, and one with monsters. There are many different genres: fantasy, sci-fi, horror, super heroes, etc. If you are unsure what game system to play, here are some good ones to start with:
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 (D&D 3.5)- This is a basic and easy to learn fantasy role playing game. Characters can make wizards, warriors, thieves, and other similar medieval and magical characters. D&D 3.5 should not be confused with D&D 4.0, which I feel has some major flaws.
Buy the D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook from Amazon
Buy the D&D 3.5 Dungeon Master's Guide from Amazon
Buy the D&D 3.5 Monster Manual from Amazon
Vampire: the Reqiuem - This is a role playing game made by White Wolf that allows player to make and play different kinds of vampires in a dark an gloomy modern setting.
Buy Vampire: the Reqiuem from Amazon
Call of Cthulhu - This is a horror role playing game based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. It is typically set in the 1920's. It is a very unique and wonderful setting, highly recommended if you have ever played any of the To Host A Murder games but want a supernatural twist.
Buy Call of Cthulhu from Amazon
You will need to at least purchase the core books for the system. For Dungeon & Dragons 3.5 this means the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual. There are plenty of additional source books available as well that will provide pre-made adventures, extra classes, races, abilities, monster, and complete game settings, but these are optional.
3) Dice - Depending on the system you are playing it will require sets of different sided dice. Hobby dice typically come in sets with dice that have 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 20 sides. Some systems uses all 10-sided dice, while other use only 6-sided dice. Dungeons & Dragons will uses the full set, and it is recommended that you have two sets and a couple extra 6-sided dice.
Buy Hobby Dice from Amazon
4) A GM/DM - Someone will have to devote themselves to learning the rules well. They will then create the adventures for the group to go on and referee the game.
5) An Adventure - You will need an adventure for the players to go on. The GM can either create his own adventure from scratch using the rule books, or he can purchase a pre-made adventure. For a first-time GM I would recommend using a pre-made adventure, they are very well designed and will take off the pressure of designing an adventure, so that the GM can just focus on the rules for the first game.
Buy D&D Adventure: The Sunless Citadel from Amazon
Well, that's about it. You are on your way to having some awesome adventures. Good luck with your game!