In between the huge and the small, there are many standard ways to give respect to the characters. If the big strong character wants to smash open a door, does it really matter to the story if they do or do not? As a GM you can acknowledge that they are very strong and only because of that, do they break the door down. The Halfling player in turn won’t likely expect that such a courtesy will be given to her. She’ll understand that to kick the door down, she’ll need a roll.
You can also, as a GM, look at what the player put into his character and develop that as an important part of the story. A good author of a book or a show does not even mention that a character is an excellent painter unless there is a reason for it. The character’s artistic skill will become useful at some point and, if acknowledged prior to that point, shows that it wasn’t just ‘random’. A GM can use that. If a character dumps points into a Swim skill, you as a GM should put an encounter where that Swim skill becomes important. And maybe not just once but a few times. It lets that character be the hero of the moment. It gives the player something that they can do that nobody else is better at. And since you put that in just for them, if they roll the ‘1’ on their Swim check, hinder them a little but don’t make them have an ‘epic fail’.
Some people will argue that everybody can fail at things. But that isn’t entirely the point. Real life people fail at stuff all the time. Fictional characters that we read and watch fail only when it’s appropriate to the story. You wouldn’t read a story where the character got into a car accident and then had to recover afterwards if the accident wasn’t in some fashion relevant to the story (whether the recovery changes the character or the lack of car makes for funny hijinx later). For your game, in which you are there to entertain everybody, failing isn’t a lot of fun for the players. And failing at something that really should be second nature for them comes across as very lacklustre. The more that happens, the more the character is just a collection of stats. But when a character becomes truly interesting and allows a player to invest more into their character, is when what the character is good at isn’t always defined on the sheet. A beginning Druid might only have a “+6 to their Survival skill” but by virtue of the fact that they choose the Druid character to play, their Survival skills should simply have more meaning than the Rogue’s +6 Survival skill. Maybe a failed roll by the Druid just means that they get the job done, but it takes them longer than it normally should have. Whereas a failed roll on the Rogue’s part certainly indicates failure.
Respecting the character is a vital skill. I’ve used it to enormous success. It has always paid off in full because the players get more invested in their role and less so in their stats. And in turn, when a player is invested in their character more, they become invested in the story more. And then everybody walks away entertained.
Trent Yacuk is an independent game developer who has after several years, hundreds of playtesting sessions in several cities across Canada and relentless badgering from his peer group of zealously committed players come to the final edit on his beloved roleplaying game centered around angels, demons and the eternal war.