If you’re looking to set a course for adventure on the Sea of Thieves; you’ve come to the right place. Whether it be to forge your own pirate legend, to sail the open waters with friends, or perhaps to get into some trouble with the legendary Jack Sparrow… this guide will help you get your Sea legs.
We’re going to be going over seven of my top topics for Sea of Thieves. But be warned; this is not a guide to being a better Pirate. Nothing on sailing strategies, weapon advantages, how to deal with various events; nothing like that. Making those discoveries on your own is the appeal of the Sea (and if you disagree, there’s always YouTube!). The things I’m going to tell you are logistical, things the game doesn’t tell you, things that knowing them beforehand will make your life on the Sea a lot smoother. These are things I wish I had wrapped my head around going into it 300 hours ago.
So batten down the hatches, fellow sailors, and prepare for a crash course in life on the Sea of Thieves!
The Loop of the Game
After selecting your Pirate for the first time, select ADVENTURE MODE as well as some basic options like crew, mic settings, and ship size and the game will load. (For awareness, Arena is a PvP dedicated mode for quick fights which I won’t be covering that today). Be careful with choosing your pirate, as it’s permanent and can only be changed with some silver coins which either cost real money, or are very rare in the game. You’ve been warned.
You and your crew begin each session at an Outpost; an island dedicated to handing in treasure and accepting voyages (this game’s version of quests). Your ship will be docked with some light supplies, and you’ll set out to do activities and voyages to earn currency and reputation. You’ll use this currency to buy cosmetic rewards, and higher reputation unlocks more cosmetics (there are a lot as is evident from the page of just bucket skins alone below). This is the basic loop, and you’re doing it along with up to five other player crews at the same time. PvP and other people are an inseparable part of the game. You load in, sail around collecting treasure, hand it in for gold, and use that gold to buy cosmetics, all while trying to avoid death either by other players, or from the creatures that roam the Sea. If all that seems simple, it is. The magic lies in the emergent gameplay during these sessions.
Which brings us to our next point: It is a unique session every time.
Understand it is a Session
Every Adventure session begins with the same view; waking up at an Outpost Inn table. You’ll wake up at one of the Outposts on your 1st sail, your 100th sail, your 1000th sail and beyond. The only thing you keep when you finish playing for that session is:
- Any gold or currency earned.
- Any reputation gained.
- The glory of the sail.
My first time playing caught me off guard this way. We stocked up our ship at Plunder Outpost, did some voyages, and handed in our loot at Ancient Spire Outpost just a few nautical miles away before shutting the game off. I expected to keep our supplies and be at Ancient Spire Outpost when we began next. But this wasn’t the case. My ship was back to default supplies and the crew spawned at Golden Sands Outpost on the far west side of the Sea.
When you shut the game off the session is over. The next time you play the game will place you in a new server at an Outpost with up to five other crews roaming the Sea to do it all again.
As you can see from this shot, I have nearly 2 million gold, 688 Doubloons and 755 Silver Coins. That number only goes up as I earn more each session (or down as I buy fun cosmetics!). But my supplies, the ten cannons, the food, the wood, the blunderbombs, those green cursed cannonballs, none of this comes with me. This allows you to log in, stock up, grab a voyage and hit the waves in an almost ritualistic way.
Or you could grab no voyage, go out and find a Pirate who already has lots of loot, kill them and steal it all yourself. Let’s talk about THAT part of the game. The PvP. Our focus will be on balance and the reality of safety in numbers.
Safety in Numbers : Crew Sizes, Ship Types, & Weaponry
Sea of Thieves, being strictly cosmetic, is a balanced game. There are no upgrades, no perks, no levels, no equipment, nor any gear. You start your session at an Outpost with the bare minimum like every other crew on the Sea. There is only one major difference to keep in mind: Crew size.
Before you set sail, you pick a ship. Each ship has a recommended minimum crew number, and a hard maximum. This means it will let you sail a Galleon alone even though that’s a bad idea, but it won’t let you pack four players on a tiny Sloop ship.
- The Sloop is meant for 1-2 players. It’s a nimble ship with 2 cannons and 1 sail to control.
- The Brigantine is meant for 2-3 players. It’s a fast vessel with 4 cannons and 2 sails to control.
- Finally, the Galleon is meant for a 4 player crew, complete with 8 cannons and 3 sails to operate. I think the obvious is obvious. A Galleon with a 4 player crew stands really, REALLY good odds fighting a single player on a Sloop. It happens.
Does this mean you have no options as the disadvantaged crew? Absolutely not. A skilled Pirate has many avenues to deal with this situation. But that isn’t what this guide is for.
Aside from crew and ship differences; there is also a choice in weaponry. No weapon is better than another; all are used for varying situations and preference. There are four weapons in total, and you may carry two of them at once. Weapons can be changed at the weapons rack on your ship, and reloaded with any ammo crate (there is also one of these near the weapons rack, pictured above.)
There is the Cutlass, Flintlock, Blunderbuss, and Eye of Reach. Or in other words; a sword, a pistol, a shotgun and a sniper rifle. Each weapon can only carry five shots, so keep an ammo crate handy or carry a cutlass! Much like everything else in the game, there is also a wide variety of weapon cosmetics available!
But obviously sometimes things won’t always go your way and you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of a flintlock or cannon. Which brings us to our next topic.
Life, Death, & Travel on the Sea
Understanding life and death on the Sea of Thieves is crucial. Because honestly your life doesn’t matter, it’s your boat that counts.
You are tied to your ship. When a player dies, they are sent to the Ferry of the Damned. Here you must wait for the door to open so you may step through and return to the world of the living, where you will spawn right back on the deck of your boat. If your ship itself sinks however, it will respawn at another island somewhere in the Sea.
If you die, you keep the supplies you had in your inventory. But if your ship sinks, you’ll lose all the loot you had on board (note: It will float for quite some time so you may be able to sail back and reclaim it!). It is paramount your ship stay afloat, but you dying isn’t such a big deal as nothing is lost (unless you die as your ship is being sunk and then you aren’t there to fix it. That’s obviously a problem.).
If you get separated from your boat, a Mermaid will spawn in the water nearby. Talking to it will teleport you back to your ship. Mermaids signal their presence with a big blue plume of smoke so it’s hard to miss.
So if a crew member falls off the boat while you’re sailing across the ocean, don’t stop for them. In just a moment a Mermaid will appear to return them to the ship once the boat gets far enough away. Getting in the mindset that your ship is more important than you are takes some time (though you can sink your ship yourself by going into MY CREW and choosing to scuttle. This is only useful if you’re stuck, or about to be sunk and want to get it over with. But that isn’t very Pirate of you! Fight to the end! For glory!).
But what is it exactly you’re doing? Yes, we’re sailing around and collecting loot and turning it in for money to buy sweet cloths. But for some players that won’t be enough, they’ll need a tangible goal. Luckily, such things are plentiful on the Sea of Thieves.
Things to Do on The Sea
While you can set sail aimlessly and go where you please; treasure is earned at its fastest when taking part in the games events and voyages. There are:
- Voyages. The game’s version of quests. These include randomized tasks such as finding treasure on a treasure map, solving riddles that lead to treasure, discovering ancient gold vaults, delivering trade supplies to other islands, searching for lost merchant shipwrecks, battling skeleton captains and spectral ghost ships, and the like. You can purchase these from the games various factions which we’ll cover soon, located at all Outposts where you’ll start each session.
- Tall Tales. These are also voyages, but they are not randomized like the others. These are hand crafted, story driven voyages called Tall Tales that offer engaging puzzles, a story to take in, and certain moments not found in the regular voyages. They feature check points, so if your crew finally finds an item you need to proceed and you get sunk, you can restart the Tall Tale from that point.
- Events. These are things occurring in the Sea that are typically visible by a cloud-shape in the sky or some kind of very visible marker, much like that scary fellow pictured below. I won’t go over what they all are. Sail towards one and find out. But keep in mind, the rewards are valuable, and other Pirates will certainly be out to claim them as well.
- Commendations. The game’s version of Achievements. These can unlock additional rewards like cosmetics and titles; and can give you a very specific goal or thing to do if you like checking off boxes. There are TONS of commendations for every single aspect of the game.
- Become A Pirate Legend. Reach Rank 50 with 3 of the game’s main Trading Companies, and you’ll become a Pirate Legend. This offers access to a special area offering voyages and cosmetics for Pirate Legends only.
I personally unlocked my favorite cosmetics ages ago, but I still continue to buy all the cosmetics I can in a quest to own them all. It gives me something to work towards while I’m out having what really counts, fun being the best Pirate I can be.
And who are we doing all of these activities for? The game’s Trading Companies.
Factions & Emissaries
At whatever Outpost you start a session at, there are several NPCs on the island with you. Most sell cosmetics, but others are there to give you Voyages and accept loot. These are the Trading Company NPCs. If you want to reach the rank of Pirate Legend, you need to reach Rank 50 in three of the four Companies. These are The Gold Hoarders, the Merchant Alliance, the Order of Souls and the Reapers Bones. There are a few others serving other niche purposes; but these are the main ones we care about right now.
Gold Hoarders, Merchant Alliance and Order of Souls offer voyages to undertake (different factions offer different types). The Reapers Bones offers no voyages, but they will accept any loot. Especially loot stolen from other players. The Gold Hoarders want treasure chests, the Merchants want crates of supplies, the Order of Souls want skeleton skulls, etc. You won’t be able to hand all types of loot to all NPCs.
The Reapers Bones are the only faction not at an Outpost. Loot must be handed in to them at their own island, The Reapers Hideout. Along with loot, you can also give them emissary flags which we’ll cover in a moment. Reapers are visible to all players on the Sea at all times at the map table aboard your ship, as they are dangerous and likely looking to sink other players.
You can vote to fly an Emissary Flag at a Trading Companies table. By doing so, you now sail on behalf of that company and you’ll earn even more reputation and gold when trading in loot for that company. But be warned. If you are sunk you will drop this flag. An Emissary for the Reapers Bones can take it and sell it for a huge profit. Meaning, your odds of being hunted increase if you fly one. With great risk, comes great reward. As you level up your flag from Rank 1 to 5 by collecting loot, the reward increase for selling said loot goes upward.
A Rank 5 Reaper gets the ability to see all other emissaries on the Sea and their location. So fly an emissary flag for a huge reward…if you’re feeling brave and accept the risks.
But what if none of this matters to you? What if you’re just here for that sweet sweet Jack Sparrow action?
A Pirate’s Life
On the main screen you can select Adventure or A Pirate’s Life. Make no mistake, there is very little difference here in your choice. ADVENTURE will spawn you inside an inn at an Outpost, like always. A PIRATE’S LIFE will spawn you at those very same Outposts, just in front of the NPC who provides the Pirate’s Life voyages instead of at the inn.
To be clear, where you spawn changes by about 30 feet. That’s the difference between these two options.
A Pirate’s Life consists of five Tall Tales. These must be done in order, and the first can be accepted at any Outpost from a specific NPC (her hut is viewable below). Some things to note:
- Some of A Pirate’s Life is instanced, meaning other players can’t attack you. Aside from the games tutorial, the Maiden Voyage, this is the only other content in the game to be free of PvP.
- But be warned, I said some. Pirate’s Life Tale 1 & 3 are almost fully instanced. Pirate’s Life Tale 2, 4 & 5 occur mostly in the open world. Remain more vigilant on these.
- The games regular, non-Pirates of the Caribbean Tall Tales aren’t instanced at all. Players can always attack you during them.
- These Tall Tales have checkpoints like the standard ones do.
This concludes all the major topics I wanted to cover. I hope you feel more ready to sail the Seas! But before we part ways and say our farewells, I’ll leave you with a couple more quick fire tips from this Pirate Legend.
- By default on Xbox, the game leaves 3 keys unbound: D-Pad Right, D-Pad Left, and the right thumb stick button. I recommend binding these to commonly used items in a fast fight via your settings. Personally, I bound food to the stick, throwables to my one D-Pad direction, and my spyglass to the other. I’m always pulling out that spyglass to check the horizon for player ships, so it makes it convenient.
- Sometimes you’ll be server merged. A message will appear saying the following and you’ll lose control of your character: “The world is changing, new dangers there be. Between boundless sky and treacherous sea. On rolling waves with sails unfurled, ships come to plunder this new world.” This means you were placed in a new server. This won’t affect anything except the other players in the world with you, so I suggest checking your surroundings the second you have this happen when it does.
- Do the Maiden Voyage, the game’s tutorial. You learn the basics in this, as well as how to fish! If you’re particularly adventurous, maybe you’ll find the hidden Gold and Doubloon stash in it? And take your time. The Maiden Voyage is also instanced, so no one will harm you.
- Sail on a Sloop alone. While by far the hardest way to play the game as you need to do everything yourself, you will also learn very fast because of that. Vigilance is an asset, and it is never more required than when you’re a crew of one. If you die alone, there is no one left to protect your ship.
- Find a good YouTuber you enjoy to learn more, or feel free to ask me questions on Twitter. My personal favorite content creator for Sea of Thieves by a landslide is PhuzzyBond. Check him out.
And finally? As the games tagline suggests…be more Pirate.
It isn’t about the gold. It’s about the glory. Become comfortable with death. Throw yourself into situations you cannot win. Let loot sink to the bottom of the ocean. Sea of Thieves is as much a mindset as it is a skill set, and losing a couple hours’ worth of loot to a savvy crew can leave a bad taste in your mouth. And it will happen. But it will happen far less the better you become.
Regardless, there’s always the next voyage. Always an opportunity to learn. I tell everyone the same thing about this game. I can’t promise you’ll like it. But I can definitely promise you’ve never played anything like it. So here’s to you, Pirate. I raise a tankard of grog to you and your crew, swift winds and calm waters! Set forth into the Sea of Thieves. Be more Pirate, and let your story become Legend!
I hope to see you on the Sea.