The Pro From Dover
There is a tendency among GM's, Myself included to forget basic things. It's only when we have an opportunity to play that they get brought back into our minds with an amount of harshness.
Lately, I have found that I am in a game where I am getting swiftly fed up.
I am getting fed up, because the GM won't allow me to actually be good at the thing my character is good at.
Most of the time, when a player creates a character, they make them with the idea in mind that the PC is some kind of expert in something. (unless of course the PC is obviously built with the idea to be more flexible than specific.)
Whether it's combat, roller blading, or underwater basket weaving, that PC has spent the time, paid the dues, and worked to get himself some kind of mastery in his field.
So, why do we, the GM's want to take that away from them? Why do we want to show them they aren't such hot shit after all?
Part of the problem falls under the rubric of game balance. If you have a PC who has statted himself to be some kind of combat bad-ass, then you can't exactly let him steam roll every combat situation he encounters can you?
But on the other hand, it's hardly fair to give the same suite of powers to every antagonist who crosses his path. It's the same sort of impulse that makes uber-NPC's just as aggravating. This is not to say that you can't create an NPC who is an expert in some field, it's just imperative that he be an expert in a field other than the PC's field of expertise.
You might do yourself a favor, Look over your players sheet and see if you can tell what your player is getting to be good at or they're aiming at some point down the road. Make a few notes as to what those things are. Do you have a player who is loaded up on survival and tracking? Then it's fairly obvious that as long as the party is together in the wilderness, they aren't going to get lost or go hungry. This is simple enough to figure out. If you have a character who is a social monster, then as long as he's on the job, the players can wrangle things out of the political machine or the social machine.
It's important that for the most part, the GM refrain from screwing with the PC's self image by crabbing his action. I'm not saying that you can't ding the player every once in a while. In fact, you should make a schedule of how often that you plan to ding them. Make the guy who is a bigger bad-ass in that field a bit rarer and he becomes scarier thereby. If every antagonist that comes down the pike is capable of beating the PC down, the player is going to get demoralized and stop playing.
Want to make a combat character sweat? give him too many thing to do in the middle of a combat. Or set up a situation where the bad guys show up in stages, or come at the good guys from a couple of different directions. This can be a tactical nightmare if the players overcommit their forces.
Another thing that might help you as the GM is to make a simple list of things that your players are good at. Is one of your characters the sort of person who finds it near impossible to get lost? Then don't create a plot predicated on the party being lost. Is one of your players a financial genius? Plots and situations based on this simple fact will seek your player out. Is one of your PC's the Fastest Gun in the West, There are going to be a number of people who are going to want to challenge that title. There are downsides to being one of the best, but the trick is, it's important to remember that there are upsides too.