Ultimately that is up to you. I don’t think there is an “optimal amount of prep” or “the best number of potential fiction to keep in your back pocket.”
The example I provided above is way more prep than I usually do. I typically just have a couple of Job ideas, which is just composed of:
- Who offers the Job?
- Who the Job is going to Affect/ The Target?
- What is the goal for the Job? What do the PCs need to do?
These come mostly from a mix of prior sessions, Faction Clocks, etc. The Players can follow up on these leads I posit to them or something else and I’ll workshop with them from there. As the GM, I’m not the principal story teller- that is on everyone’s shoulders.
The one thing I’m most concerned about having is how things might kick off and I’m normally formulating loose ideas when:
- I’m jotting down these Job opportunities
- As the PCs are poking around to get information
- Once they select their Plan and Detail
Generally Speaking (so YMMV), the starting sequence is more than enough for me to snowball “what happens next.” It just becomes “what logical problems would come from this dice roll?” or “what new problems could be cropping up that would stand in their way?” Sometimes it’s a bunch of things and sometimes it’s just a few- not every score will be a full session of Action Packed Tomfoolery. Sometimes the more exciting stuff is the aftermath from a quick and dirty Score.
On the rare occasions that I do sketch out some Potential Fictional Problems, I’m really only doing it as “Backup Material” when I’m really struggling to think of something. Now, admittedly, as I’m thinking about Jobs- I probably am setting up some Potential Fictional Obstacles, I just rarely write them down (probably so I don’t get attached to anything).
So if I were in your shoes and the premise was “Steal Drugs from Leviathan Ship” my brain would probably go to the following places first:
- Why are they tasked with getting these drugs?
- Why would Hunters Risk being intoxicated on the open waters? Are these like Focus Drugs or Combat Drugs?
- Who else would want these Drugs? Who has it out for the Hunters (or the Crew)?
Once I have those answers, I’m a pretty happy camper and I won’t really write down much more than that and I’ll let the Crew’s antics help me learn about more stuff.
If this was the first Job of the First Session, then I’d probably start them off in a Risky Position where they arrive just as a Ministry of Preservation Boat blockades the Hunter Vessel in the Dock, and around a half dozen Ministry Carriages arrive as they prepare to inspect the ship due to rumors of contraband.
At this point, I may have already had some ideas flittering through my head. There may be:
- A “Cut and Run” escape from the Hunter Vessel!
- The Crew may get Roided out from their Drugs in anger and protest!
- The Drugs are booby trapped (explosives for a “tragic accident”)
- The Drugs are hidden in a weird Ghost Echo/ Door/ Dimension Smuggling Compartment Thing… hopefully Ghosts don’t start pouring out or getting attracted to it!
- The Hunters hired some Dockers and Sailors to mess with the Ministry, things might turn bloody!
As I said in the original comment: one, some, all, or none of those things may make it into the Score (or maybe they’ll appear in different ways!). It all depends on how they deal with that starting situation.
So I guess the Tl;dr here is:
- There probably isn’t a “Golden Number of Obstacles to Prep.” If I had to place a number- I’d say 3-5 is always a good range.
- Think about who is involved in the Job. Who’s the Target? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? Does the PC Crew’s Enemies want what the Crew wants?
- Focus on the opening situation- whether it’s the first session and you toss ‘em right in or it’s a more “normal” session and you’re formulating it as you go. Sometimes the problems that appear from the opening dice rolls will be enough to keep things rolling (even 6s can still lead to new problems down the road).
- Talk things out with the Players. Sometimes talking about their Approach and possible Consequences based on their Approach and their expected Outcomes is a great way to verbally brainstorm and inspire yourself. “Hmm, you just want to go in as Ministry Officials, eh? Okay, well no one was expecting further back up and you’ll probably need to be cleared. I don’t think you’ll get Standard Effect to walk in on the investigations. Probably Limited Effect to head over to the Checkpoint folks to sign in and verify ID cards. So Limited Effect. The Consequences here, as I’m talking and thinking about it, are probably Heat and Suspicion, that sounds pretty accurate here, right?”
- Not every Score has to be a long and drawn out affair. The game is rarely a question of “will they get what they want?” It is more about “They’ll get what they want… what is the Cost?” Eventually the Stress starts to build. At first they clear it really easily, but then they need to get some Recovery Rolls in there and Reduction of Heat, and there’s those Pesky Entanglements that can chew up some Rep and Coin and now they can’t afford to Indulge to 0 Stress so they start going into Jobs with 1, 2, 3 or more Stress. They have Factions starting to bite at their heels, etc.
Hope that makes sense and hope that helps