I am currently in talks with a player, who wants his character to have the Charlatan Background, while I as the DM am not sure that's what the character actually is.
The player describes his character as someone who is not a noble, but works for nobles, doing their "dirty work" and is being exploited by them. He claims he is a Charlatan, because he only became what he is through his "Charlatan skills". His goal is to break out of this job and gain more power than the ones he is currently working for.
To me, a Charlatan is someone who tricks people with one or more schemes and a goal in mind, usually to get their money. A Charlatan can only keep up his ruse for so long and has to leave when people are starting to figure out what he does. The way I understand him, he is not earning his money through any kind of tricks, but through working for the higher ups. So I asked him who exactly he is tricking, to which he replied "those who think they control me, as well as everyone around me".
The way I understood my player, his character is not a Charlatan through the things he does, but through his general demeanor. He "says what he has to, to get what he wants" and he "plays with people's expectations and waits for a chance to find a weak spot on them". He did choose an entry from the "Favorite Scheme" table, but says he intends to maybe do this at some point later, instead of having this be an activity he did regularly, which is what I thought this table was for. It makes me wonder, if he doesn't do what a Charlatan does, how did he get proficiency with the disguise and forgery kits?
This all sounds way to vague for me and I personally can't get myself to call a character a Charlatan background without them having at least one successful coup of any sorts. For me this character sounds just like someone with the Courtier background from the SCAG, who isn't loyal to his superiors.
Basically my question is: Can a player choose the Charlatan, without actually having a "trick" that they use an people? Can a Charlatan be someone who does not make his living tricking people in a certain way, but just goes through life "telling people what they want to hear" to get power? Could someone who does his work begrudgingly and with ulterior motives be called a Charlatan?