What characters have you had that met some rather outstanding goals?
The best example I can give was my last character; Qu'Larq. He built a town in the middle of the helmlands.
Is there anything common in what you've done with your greatest characters?
The most common trait that people who get things done are that they involve others. Most of the time it's done through the creation of a PC faction, but there are some exceptions. It's important to know that by "involving others" I don't mean that you're supposed to have deligate your tasks to everyone until you're left with nothing to do yourself, I had thought that at one point in time, but it's important that you yourself actively go out with the people who support you and try and accomplish things.
Once you've got some people dedicated to helping you or your cause you go out and try actively doing things related to your cause in interesting places.
How did you do it?
Over the course of many months I established a large group of characters that followed my character, got powerful individuals to agree to invest their factions/personal resources into helping, went out and looked for resources/magical artifacts/people who could help rebuild Kilgrave. We searched the underdark, the Haunted Halls, the Vast Swamps. Even if we never found what we were looking for alot of the time we'd end up finding Hedge Magic reagents.
We got alot of our resources by participating in plots and aiding other factions. We helped the Sheriffs kill Zxhoo in exchange for the Royal Armbands of Thunderholme from Zxhoo's horde which got New Kilgrave the aid of Thunderholme in rebuilding.
We got lumber after requesting that all payment at the end of a big DM event we participated in be used to purchase lumber for our town, rather than be given to our group.
Stone came when we saved deep gnomes from gnoll attacks and requested shipments of stone as our reward.
We got protection against invasion by making a deal with the Zhentarim, we help them recover Tyr's Justice and undo the curse on the East Way and New Kilgrave becomes a territory in the Zhentarim Empire with Qu'Larq as a Zhentarim Lord in charge of the Helmlands.
It's all about Adventure and Intrigue, that's what it boils down to and always has. If you're out doing interesting things DMs will take notice and give you chances to get rewards and further your goals for involving others. If your concept is intriguing to others and involves not only your own group but people outside your own faction (such as other factions) then not only will DMs take notice but PCs will take notice and often times PCs who are influential or in influential factions can get alot done too.
I think I've started to ramble alot, but if you're out in the world involving people in grand adventures without constant DM oversight good things will happen.
I hope this helps someone.
I'm going back to class!
See you in the Summer.