Sea of Thieves beginner’s guide: 16 tips for new pirates

Cooperative piracy simulator Sea of Thieves is a game that drops players right off the plank and into the deep end of the ocean as soon as they start it up. You’re left to figure out how to do almost everything alone or with a crew of friends. All of it is picked up through experience as you play, which is part of what makes Sea of Thieves interesting. There are tons of little nuances and best practices, however, that you need to become an effective pirate.

If you want to win sea battles, escape plunderers, gather treasure, and generally be the best pirate on the Sea of Thieves, there is a lot to learn. Luckily, these tips will make you an effective sailor, a deft brawler, and a smart privateer when you join up with a crew. Going it alone has its perks as well, so check out our tips for your lone pirate voyages.

Start with the tutorial mission

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Sea of Thieves found time to add a tutorial mission for pirates first starting out, called Maiden Voyage. It’s difficult to overstate just how useful this tutorial is: It’s a safe spot without marauding PvP players that walk you through how to sail your ship and gets new players better acquainted with the world as it is. There’s also a chance to get some exclusive loot to wear! Since Thieves can be a little intimidating to first pick up and master all the controls for various activities, we highly suggest you don’t skip this mode.

Sail on Safer Seas

A ship sailing peacefully in Sea of Thieves.
Rare

It took a couple of years of updates for Rare to add this option, but Safer Seas is a private server option that allows you to get your sea legs without the threat of other, more experienced, players ruining your fun. Your progression will be limited in this mode, but it’s the perfect place to practice all the mechanics available before heading into the more dangerous waters.

Follow your compass

Pirates digging up treasure in Sea of Thieves.
Rare

A huge aspect of Sea of Thieves is solving riddles and puzzles. In true pirate fashion, many of these ask you to take “X paces” in one direction or another. Counting your steps isn’t so easy in a game, but if you hold up your compass while walking you can get a much clearer signal for every pace your character takes.

Raise the right flag

A pirate in a crows nest in Sea of Thieves.
Rare

As mentioned numerous times, teamwork is what makes Sea of Thieves special, so make sure you’re teaming up with fellow pirates. By raising a specific flag on your ship, you’re signaling to other players that you want to cooperate. If one ship raises the “Offer Alliance” flag any other close enough can join an alliance with them to work together to complete quests and go on adventures. It also marks your fellow members on your map, lets you set voyages together, and revive each other. That said, some people will use this as an opportunity to lure

Check-in with the Seasonal content

A pirate running with a chest in Sea of Thieves.
Rare

Sea of Thieves is a live-service game and is deep into its seasonal model. Each season has its own progression system where you can go through 100 Renown Levels for rewards all along the way. You earn Renown by doing almost anything during a season, but Trials, Events, and Adventures tend to have the biggest payouts. Trials come in three types: green, blue, and purple, with each giving bigger Renown boosts. Seasons all last different lengths of time but typically go for at least three months.

Events should be high on your to-do list whenever they appear. Aside from speeding up your seasonal progression, they also reward players with unique cosmetics, titles, and currency. Events can run for a single day or a few weeks so make sure not to miss out!

Beware random events

A boat sails on the ocean in Sea of Thieves.
Rare

Sailing around is already a dangerous time due to other players, but the game itself can turn on you at a moment’s notice. There are storms to be weary of, sure, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg waiting to sink your plans. World Events include stumbling upon Skeleton Forts and Fort of Fortune locations with tough enemies and bosses, as well as Skeleton and Ghost Fleets that will engage you in naval combat. There are rewards to be gained from completing all of these, but are quite risky. Since you never know when they could appear, running into one while you’re low on supplies and desperately attempting to get back to shore could be cause for alarm.

Choose your weapons carefully

sea of thieves beginners guide choose your weapons
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When you start Sea of Thieves, you pack a cutlass and a flintlock pistol, but you have some additional weapon options waiting for you in the hold of your ship. On the galleon, you’ll find the weapons locker on the mid-deck at the front of the ship, where you can restock ammo and switch your weapon complement.

There are three options for guns to carry into battle: The pistol, a decently strong, accurate mid-range weapon; the blunderbuss, a devastating close-range shotgun; and the “eye of reach” sniper rifle, which obviously packs a longer range. The pistol will get you by in most situations but don’t be afraid to change things up, carry two guns, or diversify what your whole crew is carrying. Blunderbusses, for instance, are great for stopping boarders with a single close-up shot, and the eye of reach might help you kill gunners on a nearby ship. The pistol can drop skeletons in a single shot, keeping you from getting surrounded. Experiment with all the weapons to find out what you’re good with and what the situation demands. Having the right tool for the job can save your life — and your ship.

Manage your stores

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Before going off on any voyage or trial, make sure your ship is adequately stocked for the adventure ahead. You will want to be stocked up on food, wood for repairs, and cannonballs at a minimum. Even the most basic of adventure can go sideways and not having your supplies in order is a recipe for failure. While you’re out exploring, you can also find more supplies on the various islands to restock your reserves for the return trip. Keep an eye out for potentially life-saving materials besides just treasure.

Don’t start Tall Tales until you have time set aside

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Tall Tales are longer quests in Thieves that help expand the story of the world and set a crew off to explore a famous legend of some kind. You can generally find them by talking to unique characters you may meet at various outposts.

A Tall Tale is significantly longer than any normal quest in Sea of Thieves, involving multiple steps and a number of voyages to piece everything together. While there are periodic checkpoints in the quest that will hold your progress until you return, even these can take a while to get to. Don’t start a Tall Tale until you have a willing crew that’s able to spend some time on it.

Take on a Raid

Two ships fighting in Sea of Thieves.
Rare

Raids in Sea of Thieves aren’t quite as intimidating as some other games, but just as exciting. These are epic, large-scale events that require mastery of all the systems in the game on top of excellent teamwork to succeed. There are three currently in the game, but the last one is locked until you reach the Pirate Legend rank. Once you think you’re ready for a true test of your skills or are eyeing some of the biggest payouts in the game, give a Raid a try with your crew.

Remember that some chests need babysitting

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Finding a rare treasure chest is an awesome experience, but some chests are more dangerous than others. There is a set of “cursed” chests that cause various negative effects while they are aboard your ship. Sorrow chests will weep and slowly fill the hold with water. Rage chests can catch ablaze and set the whole ship on fire without warning. Other various cursed chests may appear in future updates as well. If you find an unusual chest, check the name and be ready if it’s going to cause any trouble aboard your ship. It’s also a good idea to get rid of these chests ASAP.

The more stuff you have, the more vulnerable you are

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While it can be tempting to hit multiple islands and pick up a ton of treasure, especially as you progress through the game and voyages get more complex, resist the urge to pick up a whole bunch of stuff before turning it in. The more stuff you have on your ship, the harder it will be when you lose it — and you will definitely lose stuff from time to time, due to mishaps like storms or attacks from other players. How much you carry around spells the difference between whether being sunk is a minor inconvenience or a massive letdown.

For that reason, it’s always good to plan voyages ahead of time and to have a good sense of where the nearest outposts are. If you get into an emergency situation, you can head for an outpost and drop crew members off while you sail by, so they can swim onto the shore and turn stuff in, even while the rest of you are fighting. Try to keep your voyages manageable and your routes clear so that if plunderers come, you won’t be cursing the developers at Rare for all your precious booty that wound up at the bottom of the sea.

Don’t skip shipwrecks

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While you will constantly be getting new voyages from outpost islands all over the Sea of Thieves, especially in the early going, the rewards will be fairly minimal. There are a few ways to pick up additional rewards while you’re out on voyages, though, and the biggest one is stopping to investigate shipwrecks. You’ll know them by the flock of birds circling a spot in the water, which indicates a sunk ship just below the surface (and sometimes sticking out of it). Swim down and check the holds and captain’s quarters, and you will often find high-level treasure chests and bounties, as well as items you can sell, like spices and tea. Shipwrecks will often yield better rewards than the things you find on the missions you’re trying to complete.

There are a few things you need to be cautious about when diving, though. Shipwrecks always attract sharks within a few moments of your arrival, so the best approach is to dive down with a few crew members to get everything they have quickly. Once sharks are in the water, you’re pretty much too vulnerable to continue your salvage, so go fast. Investigating shipwrecks also leaves you highly vulnerable to attack because they have good rewards and leave you anchored in the middle of nowhere — so make sure you keep someone watching the horizon for anyone coming to steal your plunder.

Your life (and your ship) are kind of expendable

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It’s a bit counterintuitive, but if you die or lose your ship in Sea of Thieves, it’s only a few moments before you’re back in the game and at full strength. The only thing that is a pain to replace if you lose it is your cargo — once you sell treasure chests, bounty skulls, or merchant items, the money is yours to keep, and nobody can take it from you. For that reason, you shouldn’t always be afraid to sacrifice your life for the good of your crew or your ship for the good of ruining someone else’s day. If you’re not carrying any cargo, the worst you will suffer is a minor inconvenience. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless, but it does mean that if sending one person as a boarder to slow down an enemy ship could be useful, go for it. Even if they fail or die, they will respawn on your ship within a few moments.

Fire yourself from the cannon to save time when you land

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A trick that sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that you can shoot yourself out of a cannon as well as cannonballs. To do that, make sure the cannon is empty, then look at the end of the barrel while standing on the deck to get the option to climb in. If you’re alone, you have to aim the cannon first, since you can’t do it from inside, but if you have a crew, they can do the shooting for you. Firing yourself from the cannon is a quick way to get onto islands you need to search and is also handy in a fight, allowing you to attempt to board a distant ship. You need to practice to get the hang of the distance and arc of how you fly through the air, though, so don’t sleep on trying the cannon out until you absolutely need it.

Yes, you can kill sea monsters for loot

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Two dangerous oceanic monsters call the Sea of Thieves their home; these include the Kraken and the Megalodon. As you continue playing, you’ll quickly catch on to when they are about to strike. Specific music and other environmental warning signs will alert you that they are on your tail. 

Gamers who come across these creatures have only two options. If you are fortunate enough to have plenty of cannonballs and muskets, you’ll be able to battle it out. However, keep in mind that these beast battles take a decent amount of time and effort. If you’re not feeling up for it or you simply don’t have enough weaponry, you can retreat if the winds are on your side.

Battling sea monsters is exhausting and time-consuming. If you’re not ready for the double beast showdown, we advise fighting Megalodon first. This encounter is usually easier to manage, and you have an improved chance at winning even if you don’t have a lot of experience. The Kraken, on the other hand, is a more intense battle, especially if you only have a small ship. Once you triumph over one of the monsters, remember to jump overboard after their bodies. This is usually where you can find precious treasure.

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