Using the 3-D finite-element method, we develop dynamic spontaneous rupture models of earthquakes on the North Anatolian Fault system in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey, considering the geometrical complexity of the fault system in this region. We find that the earthquake size, rupture propagation pattern and ground motion all strongly depend on the interplay between the initial (static) regional pre-stress field and the dynamic stress field radiated by the propagating rupture. By testing several nucleation locations, we observe that those far from an oblique normal fault stepover segment (near Istanbul) lead to large through-going rupture on the entire fault system, whereas nucleation locations closer to the stepover segment tend to produce ruptures that die out in the stepover. However, this pattern can change drastically with only a 10° rotation of the regional stress field. Our simulations also reveal that while dynamic unclamping near fault bends can produce a new mode of supershear rupture propagation, this unclamping has a much smaller effect on the speed of the peak in slip velocity along the fault. Finally, we find that the complex fault geometry leads to a very complex and asymmetric pattern of near-fault ground motion, including greatly amplified ground motion on the insides of fault bends. The ground-motion pattern can change significantly with different hypocentres, even beyond the typical effects of directivity. The results of this study may have implications for seismic hazard in this region, for the dynamics and ground motion of geometrically complex faults, and for the interpretation of kinematic inverse rupture models.