When you get ready to start up a new campaign, or try out a new RPG (or both!), how important is it to you, and to your players, that all of the PCs start out at the same power level?

Some games treat balance as a core design goal, like D&D (although the success or failure of that design goal is debatable). Others, like Decipher’s Lord of the Rings RPG, don’t bother with it — in LotR, elves are flat-out better than everyone else, right out of the box (just like they are in the books).

I value balanced PCs very highly, both as a player and as a GM. As a GM, though, I can think of at least one occasion where I took the pursuit of balance too far — it can be a tough line to walk.

How hard should you work to ensure game balance? And how much of a factor is the game itself — the rules, the tone, the style — in making that decision?