clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

I was taken hostage in a cunning Sea of Thieves heist

Arrr, this be a shakedown.

Sea of Thieves - a player makes notes on a piece of parchment, aboard a sloop. Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios via Polygon
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Sea of Thieves allows you to make alliances with other players, spreading a fleet across the high seas in search of mutual profit. But players can still betray each other, and often do, in search of even greater gains.

One fall evening, I found myself as part of a full five-ship alliance, which meant the entire server was united under the same flag. This is an ideal version of the alliance; everyone makes a cut of the other ships’ profits, and there’s zero risk of player attacks.

There was just one problem: There was a traitor in the Alliance’s midst the entire time, and he had taken me hostage aboard my own ship. He had a plan, and I had become his unwitting pawn.

Setting the scene

I first met this bold pirate near Ancient Spire Outpost. I had plans to start an Athena’s Fortune voyage and sail the day away as a solo sloop. I saw a rare grouping of ships: two galleons, a brigantine, and a sloop. It’s not often you see the entire server together, so I approached cautiously, and when they said they wanted to talk, I decided to listen.

They informed me that I could join their server-wide alliance, or I could leave the server. It was a classic shakedown. I could either play by their terms, or they’d work together and sink me. I joined the alliance immediately. In Sea of Thieves, players have to join an Alliance by raising a specific flag near another member of the group. Every Captain keeps their profits from selling stuff, and an additional 50% trickles down to everyone else in the alliance.

The gentleman who welcomed me into the alliance got on his megaphone and sent orders to the rest of the ships. The two galleons and the brigantine would stick together, hitting the big server events that had the biggest hauls involved. The other sloop captain and I were charged with doing our own solo voyages for Athena’s Fortune. As long as everyone cooperated, no one would get hurt.

This seemed like a pretty good deal to me. I certainly wasn’t going to rise up against the man who had brought the rest of the server aboard with his plan. But what I didn’t know is that dissent was already festering in his ranks, and a member of the brigantine crew had climbed aboard my sloop.

Sea of Thieves - a player using first person perspective pilots a sloop. Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios

A brewing rebellion

As I started preparing for my voyage, I heard someone equip the Eye of Reach, a long-ranged scoped rifle, and they were right behind me. Players in Alliances can hurt each other; there’s still friendly fire, unless you’re part of the same ship. Was this a griefer?

But he didn’t fire. “This is a hijacking,” the pirate said, revealing his voice. He sounded maybe sixteen. “I need your sloop.”

His plan was simple. This teenager decided he didn’t like having someone control an entire server, and he wanted to set things up to ensure he got the biggest slice of the pie. So, the brigantine’s crew conspired, and sent one of their own off to take a sloop and use it to stage a coup. He just needed that sloop captain to be aboard with his plan.

Even though he had a gun pointed at my face, at this point, we both knew I had all of the power. I could simply log off; I would lose nothing but a little bit of time. I could scuttle my ship or dodge his shot and murder him so he’d respawn on his brigantine.

Or I could take part in his plot, and trade guaranteed profit for petty spite.

I chose the latter.

Sea of Thieves - a player holds a looking glass up to their eye to survey the horizon.
You gotta keep an eye on the long game.
Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios

Betrayal (or bullying?)

We spent the next two hours sailing around and gathering supplies. At first, he kept the rifle trained on me, but I think that eventually got a little dull. We chatted to pass the time as we loaded up the sloop with explosive barrels, cursed cannonballs, fire bombs. We fished so we would have plenty of health-restoring food for the eventual showdown.

He told me he was Finnish, living in the States, and putting off doing online school homework. I showed him my array of pets, including my hideous purple monkey that I named Fortnite. I gave him advice on his outfits. I’d hear him checking in with his team over Discord, and eventually the time came.

The teen and I rolled up on the three ships. The two galleons were working on fighting an Ashen Lord on the shores; they never saw it coming. An Ashen Lord is a big skeleton who spawns on an item, marked by a fiery tornado, and it takes quite an investment to kill them. They have a whole arsenal of special boss abilities, many of which involve throwing flame around.

Sea of Thieves - the Ashen Lords, fire imbued skeletons, pose for a dramatic group shot Image: Rare / Microsoft Game Studios

Frankly, we had over-prepared. While the other eight players from the two galleons focused on murdering the fiery skeleton boss, it was incredibly simple to line up explosive barrels in both galleons’ hulls.

The galleons were absolutely loaded with treasure, while the brigantine merely had a few chests and skulls aboard. We took a few pieces of treasure before the galleon crews noticed us. From there, everything immediately went to hell. The eight galleon players ran back towards us, yelling. The Ashen Lord followed, still going through his boss fight protocols. He opened up a portal to the sky, and fiery meteors rained down … onto the galleons, loaded with explosive barrels.

With their ships gone, it was easy for the brigantine crew and I to mop up the survivors, and then load their valuable cargo aboard our ship. We left the alliance and sailed to an outpost, but I wondered… what would have happened if I could have spoken to the galleon crews for a few hours? Would we have found a shared humanity? Would we have needed to turn on them?

But then I went to the store and bought like, six really cute dresses, so all in all? I consider being taken hostage a rousing success.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.