"I made it by being quicker than the quickies, and smarter than the smarties; and I made it square!"
The Self Made Man is a stock character who owes nobody else for his fortune and/or current standing - he worked his way from the bottom up. You get this kind of character at the end of a Rags To Riches story.
This does fairly well for business men, and would also seem to fit military characters promoted from the ranks (such as a commoner knighted for valour in battle or a naval officer come up through the hawse-hole).
For those with a more literal turn of mind (or possibly a sense of humour) this concept could also be appiled in sci-fi or fantasy to someone who has literally made himself by building a new body, either because his old one failed to please him or because it was destroyed (or just died)…
Game and Story Use
- These usually make better mentors and bystanders than player characters, as their "main story" is basically finished - they "won at life". Exceptions are likely only to occur in games centering on power politics and intrigue at the highest level - fun, but unusual for RPG campaigns.
- Works relatively well in more "social adventure" scenarios - especially for the 19th Century as "trade" began to lever open the upper class, but also works well for the knighted commoner.
- If the self-made man is a villain, his self-made position may still make him a bit admirable to the PCs. Yes, he is a bastard, but unlike other bastards he actually had to work to get where he is now.
- The fact that he is "self-made" may make him callous towards others who haven't "pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps" the way he has. In this case, he might be a Darwinist.