You can hide a lot under a crap-ton of roasted malt, that's for sure.
yup, im trying to get into new mixes of roasted malts lately. every time i make a new porter/stout beer. this coming fall im def doing a lot. ive really gotten down something that goes with a full lb of brown malt, 3/4lb of chocolate and some crystal in 5gal. it ends up as a porter, but i dont see much reason to change that one, it is my go-to base for intensely chewy more-burnt-than-darkchocolate flavour.
i haven't even tried pale chocolate yet.
and yes, stouts are relatively very forgiving beers to homebrew. i drink beer for myself to enjoy. ive got some chops, but im not one to spend my homebrew energy on a technically perfect BJCP CAP (that isn't even a style there anymore is it?)
I like a good stout and drink them fairly often except in the hotter months. I do think there are plenty of bad ones out there and I definitly buy OR more than any other. I find a lot of Imperial stouts and milk stouts cloyingly sweet and/or are trying too hard and have added flavors or are wood aged unskillfully.
I would agree with Fred that dry stouts tend to be pretty consistently safe bets.
yeah, i didn't want to say "dry stout", though that is my default style, as american stout potentially encompasses anything from a dry stout up to 6% stout with sweet notes. anything in that range is usually good, though as you said the downfall is almost ALWAYS either -not enough high lov. roasted grains -too low IBU -too much crystal. the first two are money-saving attempts, the last is just poor taste.
i love stouts but hate most milk stouts/sweet flavoured (ie. blueberry/vanilla/etc) ones.