You posted: "At the start of play the PCs have allies, rivals, and some turf". I was thinking the GM has to make all that up.I'm not sure what the 'ton' was that the GM had to make up.
So, it seems like your saying "The GM makes up a ton of stuff". I get Blades is an in place closed Railroad game, the characters "can't" leave The City(right?).Yes, after that the GM will have to supply some details, like the cop friend letting the crew know that their rivals were behind one of them getting beat up. After that another PC in info gathering phase rounds up a minor member of the rival gang and interrogates him, getting the location of a stash. This is all stock stuff, the GM doesn't even have to set difficulties here, these are 'fortune rolls' (unless a character decides to do something really complicated and dangerous, then it might get played out a bit like a mini score). Anyway, the GM will definitely make up the location of the stash, what is guarding it, etc. So they have a good bit to do, but you can see how all the people in the game are kind of putting the story together as a whole.
I guess a player can say "oh GM my character has a cop buddy", and then the player just wanders off and the GM has to make that. Is that what people talk about with "player agency"? A player can say "wow, three hours ago, I asked the GM to make a cop buddy character...and then have just played the game as a powerless character, but this game gives me the feeling of super player agency!"
As most "problem DM" posts across the Net show....it's common for GMs to have "Plans".I think you are projecting! The GMs whom I play with, and myself, want no such thing.
I get the feeling it would be a lot of sitting around, and I really hate that.I think you'd have fun getting into one of these games. I mean, maybe its not your normal cup of tea and you might not want to run such a game, but I think it would be a unique experience that is different from your average play.