Diagnosis And Treatments
It's difficult to tell exactly what is going on, obviously, without talking with the patient themselves. I'm a doctor*, not a psychic!
First Steps: See a Specialist
The best thing to do when you have an uncertain diagnosis is to see a specialist - in this case, talk to your friend. You've been playing with him for several campaigns. He'll know what's wrong better than anyone else! As always when dealing with a (game-enjoyment) health issue, a wise doctor approaches the conversation with both compassion and clarity. Something like:
"Hey [friend], I'm seeing some things that make me think you're not enjoying the game as much as you or I would like. I've seen your concerns about the system and how our campaign is set up, and I'm working to address them. But I wanted to double check and see if there are any deeper concerns you are having. It's my job as a Gamemaster to Optimize Fun™, so I want to make sure I know as much about what's going on as you are willing to share. I've really appreciated having you in so many campaigns, and it looks like from my perspective you are losing interest. From what I've observed, you're launching less sessions than I'm used to you doing. And, while I'm less confident in this, it looks like to me you are less enthusiastic about the sessions you do participate in. Is there anything else concerning you or going on that you'd like to share with me? Again, I really want you to be enjoying this campaign, and appreciate having you as a player."
Or something like that - probably best to write it yourself so it doesn't look like you copy-pasted it from an RPG question and answer site!
X-Rays of the Specific Complaints
While I can't say for certain these problems are actually the problems the player is having (see my last section in this answer for thoughts on when the stated problems aren't the actual problems), as a good doctor*, I'll take a closer look at where the patient says they are hurting. So... let's run some x-rays of his specific complaints!
X-Ray 1: Heavily Limited Actions
For this complaint, I'll refer you to my incredibly handsome assistant who looks exactly like me (and is definitely not a clone, simulacrum, or from a mirrored realm of pure evil). Take a look at the similar question and my answer that are asked here.
Prescription Option 1: A Perspective Shift, or perhaps introducing them to some feats they aren't aware of.
For your specific case, it could also be that the player's idea of a Bard doesn't align with the system's, since you mention the player "barely [using] their class abilities" and "[doing] actions that other players would be better at". PF2e Bards are full-casters with strong support vibes, and not really the best in melee. Perhaps your friend would be more satisfied with Fighter with the Marshal archetype, where running around to keep allies in his aura is helpful (and hitting things is great!).
Prescription Option 2: Rebuild the character to do what your player actually wants to be doing.
It's also possible that your player is overwhelmed by the amount of options PF2e gives a player - my professional* opinion is that this isn't likely the issue, but PF2e gives way more player options than 5e, and I've known many people to be overwhelmed at first when transitioning. Offer to walk through their character, explain the system, or point to helper content. Or to rebuild to a simpler character (e.g. a Barbarian). Or make small flashcards that describe various actions. The options are fairly limitless here. Maybe the options will be too many, and it just won't jive with them - that's okay. PF2e is by far my favorite TTRPG, but it's not for everyone - some people don't want to mentally engage with the system to the degree it takes to shine. Those people can have fun with RPGs too! Just maybe not PF2e.
Prescription Option 3: Explain the game/character to help reduce complexity
X-Ray 2: The Downtime System
Unfortunately, without reading the entire set of rules for your West-Marches game, I cannot comment specifically since you use a homebrew system. And a good doctor* knows when they are speaking out of their expertise, and I assure you, I'm definitely a doctor*. However, I have some potential simple fixes:
- Prescription for "too little for too much investment": double check the rules for downtime and try to make sure yours are in alignment. Skill feats, Earn Income, Crafting, etc. are all based around this system. Ideally, streamline any homebrew system you have, or provide tools to make it easier to navigate. The existing downtime rules are pretty simple (aside from Crafting imo), so it's possible the player is turned off by additional, out-of-session complexity on an already complex system.
- Prescription for the coordination issue: This one seems a bit easier. Let a player declare a downtime action with a single caveat of "if I'm being fed." This gives them a chance to try to do what they want without having to wait on other player's results; if the foragers don't forager enough for everyone, then they can attempt to forage for themselves (or just pay for it). Alternatively, if anyone gets (or crafts!) a Wand of Create Food they'll have guaranteed food. And if you're also making them drink water, there's Create Water. I'd guess you have those banned, though, if people haven't already started doing that.
- Prescription for the too important but not agreed on issue: On the surface, this seems to contradict the downtime giving "too little" claim. I would ask the player what their perception was - perhaps they'd simply rather go on quests to build up the town (playing sessions) than choosing a downtime activity to do so (assuming that you've homebrewed that). Regardless, I'd ask the player, as this is too contradictory for me to provide solid advice.
X-ray 3: Getting Information
Sometimes, a doctor like me* has the simple task of informing a patient they've been overlooking something, such as simply not getting enough sleep. Is your player aware of the Investigate exploration activity? Moreover, are you? If they're investigating (or describe their actions like such), they should be getting some free Recall Knowledge checks when you determine so. You could even have the players roll them so that they're aware it's happening, or you could simply tell the players "you try to recall some knowledge about , and you ". That way they know that their skills are being put to use.
Prescription Option 1: Use Exploration Activities, especially Investigate.
But let's handle the specific pain areas the patient is calling out, and dive into the specific situations where the injuries occurred:
- You admit that you could of done better - apologize to all the players if you haven't done so already. Perhaps make it more clear somehow that certain zones of the West-Marches are for higher levels, or add gates that make them impractical to access until the players reach an appropriate level (such as needing a Fly speed, or needing to dive underwater, etc.).
- In this case, I would have simply provided the player with the correct hex map. The player is not a world-traveler adventurer (most likely), and they aren't seeing the world in the same way. Their character is! That's a very silly mistake for a world-traveling, experienced adventurer to make. As part of RPGs, we constantly play characters that are way beyond our capabilities, and while physical traits (such as extreme strength) can be handled with narrative and mechanics, it's a lot harder to do the same with mental traits (such as proper map making). If their character had failed to create a proper map because their character made a poor check earlier, that's one thing - but this is causing the character to suffer simply because their player made an easy mistake. That's breaking the fourth wall. Just like an 24 Intelligence Wizard should be better at riddles than a simple doctor like me*, it's okay to assume the characters are better than the players at map-making and give them a hand. I would also apologize to all the players for this.
Prescription Option 2: Public Apology (n.b: no one is a perfect GM, this is very normal and I've done it several times).
Final Step: Visibly Implement Feedback
TTRPGs are a collaborative game, and if your players see you implementing their feedback, they'll become more invested into feeling like it's their game as well, and thus become more invested in general. You mention that you've already explained your counters to the player's issues, but don't mention any changes you've made in response to them, nor do they seem to think their issues are actually non-issues. So if you implement any feedback in response to this players complaints, let everyone know (without passive aggressively calling out the other player). Like "hey, I heard that some people were finding the downtime system a bit more complicated to coordinate, so I'm doing <solution, see above>". Importantly, don't be defensive - if your homebrew system isn't perfect, that's okay. None are. It's not a slight on you, it's a statement of your humanity (or goblinity, or koboldity, or...).
Final Final Step: When Nothing Else Works
Doctors can't cure everything, obviously I'd know that*. Should the player's desires be irreconcilable with the campaign, you face a couple options:
- If the player is actively dragging down the group, then you'll want to politely ask them to step out of this particular campaign. West marches isn't their style - that's fine. You'll both leave on good terms, knowing that you'll enjoy playing together in the future but that this campaign isn't meant for him. It'll be good for you to provide him a graceful exit - perhaps he is simply staying in the game to support you, because he likewise has enjoyed playing campaigns with you in the past, so offering the option (as an option) is a good thing.
- Sometimes, you have to eat your vegetables to get your dessert. Maybe the player enjoys the rest of the campaign enough to partake in the unsavory (to them) part in such a way that it's not a drag on other people. If so, that's fine - maybe things will get easier for them as they get more used to it, or they'll even grow to enjoy it! If this is the case, then you'll both need to take extra effort to make sure y'all are in consistent and regular feedback loop so that things can be made more enjoyable for everyone when opportunities arise for such. The prescription in this case... eat your vegetables ;).
What Are Your Credentials, Doctor?
I'm active in multiyear DnD 5e and PF2e campaigns, as a player and GM respectively (with some opportunities to play in the latter). The 5e campaign is online via Zoom and Roll 20, while the PF2e campaign is in person (aside from a miserable stretch in 2020). I've never done West-Marches, but I have done voice only (before my 5e group went to Zoom). I've also played in several other systems, some rules-light (Horror Rules was my introduction to TTRPGs) and some... not (e.g. the Pathfinders). I've never played OSR nor World of Darkness. I do prefer higher-complexity games with a lot of options and depth (sign me up for a Gloomhaven TTRPG), just so all my biases are on the table. At the end of every section of my PF2e campaign, I send out surveys to each player and diligently work to incorporate the feedback, so I've got a decent amount of experience with that too (which it sounds like you are doing).
*Also, I'm not a doctor.