A role-playing game is an interactive story.
A game moderator writes that story, called a scenario,
without a fixed story line or a fixed ending.
The players then play the roles of the main characters in that story,
hence the term "role-playing" game.
The actions of those characters, the Player Characters or
PC's, then determine the outcome of the story.
Most of all, it's a social event.
A means to get together with some friends and have loads of fun.
What you need for this kind of game is: a set of dice
(4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, 12-sided, 20-sided, ...),
pen and paper, rule books, ideally 4 to 6 players, snacks and drinks,
and above all a generous amount of imagination.
Player Characters (PC's)
On a specially prepared document, the attributes of a PC are written down.
Usually those attributes are presented in numbers: the higher, the better.
Attributes are physical and mental capacity, skills, experience, etc.
Some are strong. Some are intelligent.
Some are both. Some are none.
Some can fight. Some can do magic. Some are psionically gifted. Etc.
By gathering experience, in the form of points given by the game moderator,
the players can make their PCs evolve.
A PC can sometimes be played for years,
evolving from a country boy to an epic hero,
meeting increasingly challenging situations in ever changing scenarios.
The moderator is a combination of a writer, a director, an actor, and a referee.
He writes the story (or uses a pre-published one) and guides the players through it
by describing to the players how the world around their PCs looks like,
by telling them the results of the actions they take (sometimes helped by a roll of the dice),
and by taking on the roles of all the people, monsters, aliens, etc. the player characters interact with on their adventures.
List Of Games
The list of games I present here is by no means intended to be a complete list of role-playing games.
Those are just the games I personally own and/or play,
but there are a lot - a whole lot - more of them around.
So many games, and so little time (and so little money).
If you want more information on the subject,
don't hesitate to send me an e-mail.