The conventional wisdom of tabletop RPG’s states that to be awesome, you must plan your character out right from the start, with an exponential growth of power to make it work. You want to maximize your advantages and minimize your disadvantages by having a set series of feats and options you take which let you do a few things very well.
This plan works, but it’s very one-sided. As the player, you are assuming that the game will adapt to you, rather than having to adapt to the game. While it is the duty of the GM to let you have an opportunity to have fun doing your thing, it is the duty of every player to help the GM tell their story. Planning a character set in stone from day 1 can make you theoretically more powerful, but may be developing at right angles to the campaign, doing damage to the fun of the story rather than smoothing it and allowing you the opportunity to shine.
Instead, think of your plan as just that–a plan. You don’t have to stick to it come hell or high water. Indeed, if the campaign does lead you to hell and high water, put skill points in Knowledge (the planes) and Swim.
Watch the party’s performance in combat carefully, and always take a moment after an encounter to consider what would have made it better. Perhaps you lack a ranged attacker that could get the first strike at faraway foes–take your two-weapon fighter in another direction with a bow and a feat. You don’t have to give up your original idea, but seek out options for your character.
Notice how the story is moving, and don’t just plan ahead–seek to fit into the world! It costs you little to put a rank in craft (pottery) if the story has led you to an interesting character who happens to be a potter. You open up all kinds of adventure hooks and ideas for the GM, and give yourself the option to shine in a way people rarely do. It is these options which make characters memorable and interesting.
These games are all about options, in the end. Doing a very few things super well is great when you’re called upon to do them–but other times, you may have little or nothing to do. If that ever happens, immediately take action to remedy the possibility of the incident coming up again, whether through feats, spells, skills, or even items. Believe that your character will have to face an infinitely varied set of obstacles and challenges, so allow yourself to face them all! Evolve!
-Max Porter Zasada