My method of game prep so far has taken the form of a box of index cards. I make notes on generic NPCs, vehicles, places, etc. "Adventures" are a card with a list of NPCs and locations, and bare-bones plot points.
For example, last weeks adventure, based on the adventure seed "Maya Strike" from the book took the following form:
King Nenekan (of Alactan) wants to attack the airfield of King Vayana (of Vedenai). the attack must take place on the day decreed by the High Priest A'Latli.
- A'Latli has been corrupted and will perform a sacrifice to set a curse against the pilots (bringing stormy weather.) A'Latli wants the mission to fail so that Prince Balam dies.
- Prince Balam is a young man with no combat experience and will demand that he fly in the mission. (The character's will need to babysit him or convince him to stay behind.)
- Princess Neneti has secretly been replaced and impersonated by notorious figure Shiloh Cristobel. Cristobel will attempt to bribe the characters to "rescue" her, allowing her to carry away a sizable chunk of Alactan's treasury.
- Itzel, Neneti's handmaiden, is caring for the real Neneti and assisting in Cristobel's ruse.
- Coyopa is a bold pilot who models Mayan courage and honor.
- The Wise Man Zyanya suspects A'Latli's corruption. He is a mysterious Yoda or Rifiki.
- Alactan and Vedenai are sixty miles apart.
- Vedenai Airfield is as described in the book, and has 12 Mayan fighters based there. They will be able to take off on round three of any attack.
- Alactan has 12 fighters currently, and only Coyopa has any skill.
Then I had a card with the writeup of a typical Mayan fighter, and made notes of what bonuses Coyopa had.
As for running the adventure, I just winged it. I introduced the characters one at a time, let them interact, and when a scene fell to a lull I moved on to the next scene.
Coyopa challenged one of the characters to an air race which the player narrowly won. Then Zyanya turned the mysterious stranger thing up to eleven, but kept feeding the characters small bits of friendly and useful advice. He also made them suspicious of A'Latli. The Prince bumbled his way through several scenes, and gave enough bad tactical advice that the characters were very afraid of accompanying him into battle but didn't want to offend him either.
"Neneti" (Cristobel) made contact with and bribed the characters to "rescue" from her "terribly rigid curse of the Mayan caste system." A'Latli got to behave grandiose and sinister before capturing Coyopa and illegally sacrificing him to unleash "the curse." (The characters were by this time more afraid of the curse than would be justified by the mechanical effects I had in mind, which was perfect.) Some characters got in a fight in the temple, and sought refuge with Zyanya immediately afterward, while others convinced the Prince diplomatically that his role was not in the air.
Then we had the air attack, which was very successful for the squadron. It went so well that the enemy planes never made it into the air, though to destroy the airfield they used up nearly all of their ammo. (We used poker chips as ammo markers, which made it simpler at the table.)
One of the characters confronted A'Latli and had a nice bare knuckled brawl. It ended with the escape of the High Priest, setting him up as a potential bad guy to bring back later. When I do that, it will help tie the episodic nature of the missions into a story arc. (I hope.)
Then they escorted "Neneti." They had assumed that this part would be a cakewalk, but they hadn't counted on being nearly out of ammo at this point. When Alactan's air force engaged them, they had to be conservative on pulling the trigger, which was a new concept for the squadron.
Also, it triggered the group's first scandal... They had fulfilled their contract, but had turned on their employer immediately after. The group has yet to learn of the repercussions of this act.
At the end of the session, the group selected "Magnificent Bastards" from the mission cards. (Defend a town in Tegesta against a corporate incursion.)
Something I've been doing is gradually using the rules of Warbirds. The first mission was a simple escort mission, pirates attacked, and we used the dogfight tracker.
Session two included an air race, a little hand to hand combat. strafing, and more group dog fighting.
Next session I hope to break out the scandal rules, sponsorships, some pistol and melee fights, and one on one dog fighting.