Wonderful post by Brad over at Skull Crushing for Great Justice (http://crushingskulls.blogspot.com/2009/05/player-choices-impediment-to-fun.html) about the merits of gaming vs role playing.
If you are ever starting a group with new players, even friends or family, or just introducing a new player into your established group, this is a great conversation to have. Understanding this stuff helps clarify expectations and keeps everyone on the same page. This means, it keeps people from getting butthurt, and helps the overall fun level.
My take on what Brad is saying:
Gaming is what most RPGs have evolved into. The goal is to win the game. The DM is basically a proxy for a computerized system that is designed to maximize player success. Also known as "power gaming", the desire to maximize every stat to ensure PC invulnerability. The implicit goal of play is to win the game, often in an adversarial relationship to the DM.
Role Playing: playing the game to have fun. The PC is just a vehicle for the player to play with. PC creation, via dice, provides the basic outline of a "personality" that the players then role play. Heck, you can even use the tables in the DMG to randomly generate a personality and social background.
The implicit goal of the game is FUN, and sometimes PC death is part of that fun. The DM is a player-friendly referee, not an adversary. He gets to have fun role-playing the NPCs, the villains, and the monsters. He lets the dice fall where they may, allowing the dice to reveal the outcomes to both the players and himself.
Clarifying these expectations will increase player satisfaction, but also DM satisfaction. Take a second look at the random PERSONALITY generating tables in the DMG. For any given NPC encounter, roll up a random personality, then "role it up".
Let the players have fun role playing their randomly generated players. PCs do NOT have to be extensions of the player's ego! Randomly generating a PC, including the outline of the personality to be played, would really help separate the player's ego from their PC.
Riffing on another of Brad's suggestions, as a good DM, it can even be fun to play without dice as much as possible. If the players have a sweet idea that sounds like it would solve the problem, feel free to GO WITH IT. Many things should legitimately be assigned a chance probability, but sometimes, just for shits and giggles, play along with their wacky heroic schemes.
HAVE FUN, don't be a rules nazi!