There's the rub. Even if you get an 18/00, you can still roll a 2 for your fighter's starting hit points or all 1s on your starting gold and end up trying to survive your first dungeon in padded armor or heck just walk into an ambush. 18/00 was a wild enhancement in power for a martial character*, yet at the same time it doesn't erase all the ways that all the other dice rolls ('permanent' or immediate) and basic decisions determine game outcome. *So much that I'd call it bad design to have such a character-ability imbalance except that, well, gauntlets of ogre power just aren't that rare.
This guy came in at 4th level; he was a replacement in an established party of around 4th-6th level. Didn't have a Con to speak of, rolled about average on h.p., and while he had some armour his AC wasn't stupendous. He died twice in quick succession, both times against Giants and-or Ogres en route to a modified version of WGA4 Lost Temple of Tharizdun; and after the second death didn't have the resources to afford revival.
That said, I don't mind the randomness of h.p. and gold generation. Even all 1s on your starting gold at 1st level, though unlikely, would still give a Fighter 50 g.p.; which is I think enough to get a shield, a weapon or two, and leather armour; and odds are very high that if you're playing a classic adventure module you'll quickly have the 400 g.p. to get yourself some plate...you just have to convince the rest of the party to go back to town with you ASAP and get it.
I saw in the first time I sat down with a group to roll up characters. I was all of 9 years old and was playing with a group of older kids 12 to 15 and when it happened didn't understand why everyone was freaking out. I get it now but then thought maybe it happened all the time. Feeling the excitement was cool to experience as a first time player.
I saw a lot of characters with 18/00 STR but only one that I can say was "legit". Crazy.