Let's settle that we've rolled the bare bones of our character and that we've settled on the stats, the general appearance, age, race, gender and other particulars that satisfy us, including a back story if that is what we want. The next stage would be equipping the character, both in terms of the character's unique abilities and then in what actual gear the character will be carrying.
Without devolving into particulars of the present state of D&D or other RPGs, it is my feeling that player characters shouldn't be able to do much, particularly at the beginning. The choice of what might be done should be of a good size, enough to promote discontent when the player understands that making this choice will preclude the benefits of that choice. Choice can be paralyzing. Players can easily spend hours struggling between choices ~ and can feel distress when they realize, or feel, that they've made the wrong choice, even if they really haven't. The aftermath of choice is often the wherewithal to accept one's limitations and play inside those ... while many players are simply incapable of accepting their limitations in real life. Naturally, if Johnny can't deal with his not being the guitar player he so badly wants to be, he won't do well with not being able to jump across this gorge now because sometime in the past he wanted a better bonus on his weapon.
Yet part of the game is that players must learn to play to their choices. If Johnny's skills don't include gorge-jumping, then why is he here on the lip of this gorge in the first place? I'm an extraordinarily clumsy person in real life. I'd guess my dexterity at a 7, give or take a point depending on the day. As such, I don't go rock-climbing. I just don't. I am a good writer, so I play to that strength and stay home. I don't moan about my lack of dexterity; I cope with it and enjoy the fact that writing doesn't take much.
Players, I have found, don't think like this. When asking what they'd like to do first in the campaign, they don't look at their character sheets and think, "What would a guy with a 17 wisdom and an 8 dexterity want to do?" They think, "I can do anything if I try." And so it begins. Next thing, there's Johnny on the edge, about to die.
The control we have over our character's success depends on settling upon a set of abilities (spells, proficiencies, feats, skills, whatever we want to call them) that we like and then playing to those strengths. In the bigger sense, it is having a party with a wide variety of abilities and then playing to all of them as a team. Matt is a better first baseman than I am, while I'm a better hitter, so I'll play outfield while he plays infield. Grant is better with his glove than I am so he can play left field and I'll play right. Does it mean I'll have less to do as a fielder? Yes. But the chances of our winning is improved.
Johnny, on the other hand, wants to play first base because he wants to. Period. And no one will play first base instead because Johnny will make a racket, or he'll take his ball and go home. This is what we're seeing all over. I don't want to be a fighter that protects a mage because that's not as much fun as ignoring the mage's needs and feeding my own. I don't care that we're going to go into a dungeon, I'm going to take polearms and morning stars as my proficiencies because, well, because. Those weapons are cool. And so on.
Then we can bitch and moan until the DM fixes the dungeon that allows us to do what we want. Because that's what its all about. Doing what we want, and to hell with everything else. The DM must change, the rules must change, the arbitrary limitations on what I can do must change, I deserve to be able to trade something I have for something I don't according to what I think is right, and if you won't let me, then you're being unfair.
This thinking has become pervasive. As my daughter tells me, there are endless parents now who won't make their young children lose at board games. These parents see their five-year-olds get upset when they can't succeed at Operation so they make concessions. "It's okay if you touch the sides once," they say. And so the kid never learns that skill, or the need to learn that skill, or indeed the value of skills. They learn that rewards are given to the most upset ... and then a company comes along to ask game-players how they think the game should be played, and dutifully write down the opinions of a people who have no idea how a game works.
And here is where we are.