I've become the worst kind of Sea of Thieves pirate: the outpost ambusher

Sea of Thieves
(Image credit: Rare)

All's fair in Sea of Thieves. Sinking other ships and taking their treasure. Betraying your alliance so you can take all of the loot instead of just half. Four-man galleons ganging up on solo sloops. We're pirates, after all, and pirates aren't to be trusted.

But I have become the worst kind of Sea of Thieves pirate. I'm an outpost ambusher. And while I feel some degree of shame over this, it's not nearly enough shame to change my ways.

The outpost ambusher doesn't fight pirates on the high seas or go sword-to-musket with them on an uninhabited island. He waits at an outpost for another ship to arrive, a ship he knows is carrying treasure. He sinks his own ship ahead of time so the arriving pirates won't know he's there. He plants explosive barrels and detonates them from a safe distance, killing the other pirates just as they're about to cash in their loot. And then he rushes in to grab the treasure and quickly sell it himself. 

That treasure was fought for and earned (or at least legitimately stolen) and was probably carried dozens of nautical miles to get there. The outpost ambusher carries it the last few feet and takes 100% of the profit.

That's what I've become in Sea of Thieves. An ambusher. A rat. I don't do it often, and I don't join a session with the express intent of ambushing other pirates at outposts. But when the opportunity for an outpost ambush presents itself, I don't hesitate for a second, and I've done it enough times that I can't pretend it's an anomaly. I will do it again.

The first time I ambushed pirates at an outpost in Sea of Thieves, months ago, it wasn't really my plan. I'd been playing solo, sailing around in my little sloop, pulling treasure out of randomly spawning shipwrecks. Then I'd head to seaposts and outposts to sell what I'd found, and along the way I'd usually fight a kraken or a megalodon and gather a bit more loot from them. It's an enjoyable solo loop, perfect for an hour or two of low-stakes play.

I was done playing for the night, so I headed toward the nearest outpost to sell the remaining loot I had. It was Plunder Outpost, which is right next to Lost Gold Fort, a skeleton stronghold. As I got close to Plunder Outpost, I noticed a player galleon anchored near the fort, which meant a crew was there battling waves of skeletons for a massive pile of loot. As I arrived at Plunder, the big skull cloud over the fort vanished, which meant the galleon crew had won.

It occurred to me that they'd probably head straight to Plunder Outpost, where I was, to sell everything. It would probably only take them a few minutes to load their ship and sail over. I realized I could be there waiting for them and their treasure-filled ship. Plus, I had some explosive barrels with me—when I play solo I always pick up a few in case I get chased by other players.

I figured they would probably bring the most valuable chest to the merchant's tent first, so I placed an explosive barrel inside the tent. I scuttled my ship on the far side of the island so my mast wouldn't give me away. Then I hopped onto a roof of one of the vendors where I had a clear shot at the barrel I'd placed. I used the sleeping emote to lie down, and watched as they sailed over and docked.

It all worked perfectly except for the part where I completely failed. I'd guessed right: the first pirate off the galleon headed to merchant's tent carrying the expensive stronghold chest. I fired a sniper round and detonated the barrel, which killed him instantly, but I'd let him get too close to the tent. He'd managed to sell the crate a moment before he died. When I scurried over, there was nothing there but his dissipating ghost.

The rest of the treasure was in a rowboat that had been lowered to the water, but it was so crammed with loot I couldn't grab the stuff I really wanted. I only got a few pieces of low-value treasure out before the rest of the crew killed me.

Less than a week later, I wound up in almost the exact same situation again. I was heading toward Plunder Outpost, ready to call it a night, and I saw yet another galleon over at Lost Gold Fort. I had two explosive barrels this time, so I thought I'd try my ambush again.

This time, there was a bit of a twist. Shortly after the skull cloud vanished, I saw a sloop headed toward the fort. I could make out some distant cannonfire and through my spyglass I saw the masts of the galleon fall over. Several minutes later, I saw the sloop making its way toward the outpost where I'd scuttled my ship and was waiting. The sloop crew had sunk the galleon and taken all that treasure! And now I was going to try to take it from them, even though they'd put in the hard work of killing the pirates who'd put in the hard work to take down the fort. I'd be putting in no work at all because I'm a filthy rat.

This time my sniper shot was well-timed: I took out the pirate before he could sell the stronghold chest. I grabbed it, sold it, then took my second explosive barrel onto the sloop and nuked it. The pirate (who was apparently alone) respawned to find his ship already sinking, and we fought toe-to-toe on the beach. I managed to kill him and with his sloop destroyed he couldn't respawn. The pile of treasure he'd defeated the galleon crew for was floating in the water, all mine. It's the rattiest thing I've ever done, stealing from a legitimate thief.

I didn't try it again for a long, long while after that. Like I said, I'm a rat but an impatient one. I'm not going to spend my entire night lying on the roof at an outpost hoping someone sails over: I only ambush when the opportunity is already developing. Case in point, the other night.

I'd spent about 15 minutes crossing the sea in my sloop headed toward a reaper's chest, which appear in special, haunted shipwrecks you can see from anywhere on the map. Just as I was arriving I saw another sloop had beat me to it. A real pirate would chase them down and put some cannonballs in their hull, and maybe even sink them before they got the chest onboard.

But I'm no real pirate, so instead I headed to Sanctuary Outpost, the closest port. You sell the reaper's chests in the pub, so I scuttled my ship, dragged my barrel into the pub, placed it by the front door, and waited. Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw the sloop pulling up to the dock. When the pirate ran into the pub, I blew up the barrel and collected the chest myself.

I just wanted the chest—I had spent all that time sailing toward it and so I felt vaguely (and wrongly) entitled—but after killing the second pirate I boarded their ship and stole a mermaid gem, too.

What can I say? I hate players like me. I'm a rat. I'm the worst kind of pirate. I'm an outpost ambusher. I'm not playing Sea of Thieves, I'm playing Sea of Thieves of Thieves.

So, if you've got a ship full of treasure and you're headed for an outpost, don't feel safe just because you don't see a sloop waiting there. Check the tents and pubs for barrels before you go rushing in with loot. And if you find me hiding nearby with a sniper rifle, kill me quickly and mercilessly. It's what I deserve and it's the only way I'll stop.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.