How did sailors become pirates? (Sea of Thieves)

Load the cannon! Did I say “cannon”? I meant load the new episode of Hey Lesson. It’s all about the pirates in Sea of Thieves. We’ve spoken to author and historian Dr Jamie Goodall about the history of these cut-throat sea-scoundrels, and ask her: how did ordinary sailors of the 1600s go about embracing the life of high seas shenanigans? As ever, there’s no simple answer (turns out there’s no pirate exam) but there are interesting ones! We also welcome back Pip Warr to tell us about her own oceanic misadventures in Sea of Thieves. She is a devious sea dog, we’ve discovered.

Support Hey Lesson on Patreon!

Or put a one-off tip in our tip jar

Click “more” for a full list of links and transcription.

Links:

Dr Jamie Goodall is on Twitter

And here is her book, Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay

Pip Warr is on Twitter as well

Sea of Thieves in on Steam if you’re a PC person

Music:

Interview music is Crossing the Chasm by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3562-crossing-the-chasm
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Other music and SFX from official Sea of Thieves YouTube channel

Transcription:

Dr Jamie Goodall, historian: Most pirates became pirates either through mutiny or they were forced into piracy by pirates who boarded their merchant or naval vessels… We have the likes of Stede Bonnet who just decided he was having a midlife crisis. He ditched his wife, sold his business, and bought a ship and hired a crew. That’s sort of on the rare end of the spectrum.

Brendan Caldwell, host: Hello and welcome to Hey Lesson, the podcast where we underhandedly teach you things through the lens of popular video games by chatting to experts of actual real-world topics. I’m Brendan Caldwell, your host, I’m here to ask smart people questions. This week, those questions are about pirates. We’re talking about swashbuckling first-person pirate adventure Sea of Thieves, a multiplayer game about sailing the high seas, and finding treasure and friendship, among other things. Soon, we’ll be chatting to an historian… A historian? AN historian? What’s wrong with me [laughter]. We’ll be chatting to a history knower who specializes in pirates. So keep listening if you want to know how many of our ideas about pirates are fictional on how many are based in historical fact. For now, let me introduce this episode’s guest host – I think you heard her laugh – it’s Pip Warr!

Pip Warr, writer: Hello!

Brendan: The return of the Pip! How are you?

Pip: I’m well. Pip Yarrr, I should have said, instead of… yes… I’m very excited to be here for this because I have played so much Sea of Thieves. It’s ridiculous.

Brendan: You really have. We went on a sea voyage once together ourselves, but we’ll talk about that maybe later, our sea voyage. Before we go into it, I do owe some of our listeners an explanation because there has been an episode about Sea of Thieves before, but it was a bonus episode… So some of the patrons and subscribers would have heard that. Astrid came on – one of our other co-hosts came on – and chatted to us about it. But this time we’ve got a pirate historian and we’ve got a Pip!

Pip: Yusss.

Brendan: So can you tell the listener: what is Sea of Thieves precisely? What does it look like? What kind of stuff do you do in it?

Pip: What you do is you take a boat across a big map of largely sea, but peppered with islands, to explore and encounter. You can take a little ship called a sloop, or you can take one of the big, bigger ones. It depends how many crew you want to bring with you on said adventure. And essentially you’re just sailing around picking fights or running away from fights. You can fish, you can score bounties, you can pop into local taverns and just sort of idly drink the local beers and, uh, get quite wobbly. And there are also a lot of missions that you can take on whereby you are essentially tracking down treasure and trying to earn your keep, so that you can deck your boat (or yourself) out in a variety of wonderful cosmetics.

Brendan: So you’re big into the game. Like you’ve played…

Pip: I have played many hours.

Brendan: Uncountable hours.

Pip: So I think maybe to put it into perspective, there’s a thing that people use often to drive their overall progress, certainly in the sort of main experience with the game. And that is to get to ‘pirate legend’ status. And there are these different factions within the game. You’ve got the Merchants, if you do things for them then your reputation with them goes up. You’ve got the Hunters Call, who are the fishing faction. You’ve got the more kind of PVP people. And so to get to ‘pirate legend’, you reach level 50 with three of any of those factions. And the group of friends that I play this most regularly with had been playing for maybe a year and a half or something – on and off, a lot less “on” – and I joined them and became ‘pirate legend’ before any of them.

Brendan: Waaaow.

Pip: Yeah… if I get into a game, I go hard.

Brendan: This is like you’re like the deck hand, the cabin boy who joined the crew and then rose to the rank of Admiral while they were all still, you know, third mate or whatever.

Pip: Just donning a series of increasingly fancy hats.

Brendan: Really fast, one after the other.

Pip: It’s like I brought my own hat suitcase is what happened.

Brendan: Before we hoist our flag in earnest, before we raise anchor… I don’t know what other analogies to use here…

Pip: Before we set sail.

Brendan: Before we set sail properly, we wanted to find out which of our popular ideas about pirates are true and exactly how much of pirate life has been romanticized and made into something fun. So to learn more, I spoke to Dr. Jamie Goodall. She is an expert who has written a book called Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay. And she knows, let’s say, a fair bit about this topic. So here she is!

[Interview begins]

Brendan: Jamie, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners? Who are you and what do you do?

Dr Jamie Goodall: So my name is Jamie Goodall and I am a staff historian at the US Army Center of Military History. So I do have to say that all views expressed today are my own and not that of the US government.

Brendan: An important caveat.

Jamie Goodall: Yes.

Brendan: And you have a particular speciality.

Jamie Goodall: Yes. So my PhD research was on pirates of the Atlantic world and I just had a book come out last year on pirates of the Chesapeake Bay.

Brendan: Everybody knows what a pirate is, or everyone has some idea thanks to popular culture of pirates in movies and so on. But could you tell us is there any strict definition of a pirate? You know, what’s the difference between a pirate and just some thief with a boat?

Jamie Goodall: So really what defines a pirate is theft on the water. And so anybody with a boat who’s out stealing stuff would be, by law, considered a pirate. This gets a little murky when we talk about conflict, because there’s that fine line between piracy and privateering. Both a pirate and a privateer, their main job is to disrupt commerce. The only difference is that a privateer technically has what’s called a “letter of mark” or essentially a commission, which makes it legal under the law of that nation to attack enemy shipping. But essentially they’re just pirates with a fancier title.

Narrator (soundbite): Follow the clues left by those who came before, and the rewards within your grasp are riches unimaginable.

Jamie Goodall: Between about 1650 and 1730 – so between the 17th and 18th centuries – this is the period in which England is growing its empire. There’s a lot of treasure coming out of the Spanish colonies that the English want their hands on. And there’s also a lot of goods coming from the Dutch and the French that the colonists want their hands on.

Brendan: What would have driven some people during that time to fly a pirate flag? It seems like a bit of a dangerous lifestyle.

Jamie Goodall: Oh, absolutely. It’s very dangerous. There’s a couple of main ways that somebody might become a pirate or decide to become a pirate. We have the likes of Stede Bonnet who just decided he was having a midlife crisis. And so he ditched his wife, sold his business, and bought a ship and hired a crew. That’s sort of on the rare end of the spectrum. Most pirates became pirates either through mutiny on board a merchant or naval vessel, or they were forced into piracy by pirates who boarded their merchant or naval vessels. And for the most part, people didn’t stay pirates. They were only pirates for maybe one or two ventures. And then they typically retired just because of how dangerous and how difficult the pirate lifestyle was.

Narrator (soundbite): As you battle for this legendary loot, keep an eye out for barrels containing the deadly new blunder-bombs.

Brendan: We often see the adventures of pirates, the fighting, the plunder and so on. And in the game we’re playing, Sea of Thieves, there’s a lot of that sense of adventure. But what would an average day of work aboard a pirate ship have been like for a real pirate?

Jamie Goodall: For the most part, it would have just been taking care of the ship itself. So keeping the deck clear, taking care of the sails and the riggings and the spars. For the most part, they just sort of hung out because it’s very rare for them to actually encounter a ship that they’re going to attack. There would be musicians on deck sometimes that would help keep spirits [up]. We know of course, sea songs and sea shanties were very popular. Shanties being more of the work songs and sea songs being more of the recreational time. So it’s sort of a boring life in the grand scheme of things, until you get into an engagement.

Narrator (soundbite): Responsible piratical pet owners should always be ready to scrub the decks as… well, accidents can happen.

Brendan: You said that sometimes there would be a mutiny on board a merchant ship or something like that. Was it difficult for the leader of a pirate ship to keep discipline aboard the vessel? If the vessel is essentially staffed by people who have proved that they’re undisciplined?

Jamie Goodall: Well, so that’s the interesting thing about pirate ships is that by and large they’re sort of floating democracies, at least according to men like [historian] Marcus Rediker. And what that means is that you might have a captain, but really the captain is in name only. And he’s really only captain during engagements because you need a single point of contact to shout orders and to keep the fighting straight. But other than that, the captain would have been an equal member of the crew. For the most part, shares of plunder were distributed equally, on rare occasion a captain might get more of a share just because of his leadership during the battle or during the fight. We do have certain pirates who kept order like Blackbeard. He of course, was sort of the exception to the rule by being a well-respected and well-feared captain. It wouldn’t have been too hard to keep order just because the men all had to agree on certain behaviors to keep order on the ship. And it was in their best interest to keep order on the ship because otherwise they would have had a lot more difficulty in engaging merchant ships or stealing goods and commodities.

Narrator (soundbite): In Sea of Thieves, working together as a crew can be the difference between cashing in an epic haul or watching your hard earned spoils sink into the depths.

Brendan: We sometimes read about pirates having a code or a sort of maritime law of their own. Is that something based in historical record or is that a total flight of fancy?

Jamie Goodall: Actually, we do have evidence of a couple of pirate codes. Most of the pirate codes that we know about come in Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History Of Pyrates, which you sort of have to take with a grain of salt because some of his information we can corroborate with other sources and then, of course, some of it is probably fictionalised. But we do have some surviving pirate codes or pirate articles where they outlined the voting process for choosing when to engage in a conflict, and when not to. Voting on where to go. Distributing the shares and how those shares would be distributed in terms of: was it equally or did the captain get more? There was even sometimes ‘workman’s compensation’ built into these pirate codes, where if you were injured in battle, you would be compensated a certain amount to make up for that injury.

Brendan: They didn’t have, like, life insurance, where there would be a payout to the pirates family members or anything like that, did they?

Jamie Goodall: Interestingly enough, they did have systems set up where they might take the pirate’s share to that pirates family. We don’t have a lot of evidence for this, but it is suggested in some of the records that this is what they did. Because pirates did have families. Daphne Geanacopoulos has written extensively about pirate families and their connections on land. So she’s got some very interesting tidbits on things like life insurance.

Narrator (soundbite): So you’ll need to act fast and think carefully about what matters most, lest greed be your downfall.

Brendan: You can find islands in the game that we’re playing, which are essentially pirate havens. They’re islands that are totally pirate-managed. Is that a thing that ever happened? An Island ruled by pirates?

Jamie Goodall: Yeah! So Tortuga is probably the more famous of the islands that really are sort of run by pirates. There’s no real system of government set up in Tortuga. Primarily just because it sort of went between the French and the English and the Spanish and back to the French and back to the English. It changed hands so many times that there was no settled government, but even the Island of New Providence, or Nassau Island, that location was also sort of run by pirates. It had a government, but it was well in cahoots with the pirates. And so the pirates really sort of helped to run the government in that sense.

Narrator (soundbite): There is an island that lies beyond the borders of this world…

Brendan: There is an immovable image of a pirate as a sort of jolly outlaw. They’re a bit of a rascal, but ultimately not always a bad person. Is that a fair image, or were pirates in reality quite bloodthirsty or downright dangerous?

Jamie Goodall: For the most part, pirates were not people you wanted to encounter. Now… because some of them were family men, they were more generous and they tended to be less vicious. But the traditional cutthroat, I mean, they were more than happy to torture people in order to obtain information, particularly if you were hiding things on the ship and they wanted to know where it was, they had no problem torturing you to find that out. They had no problem committing murder and mutiny. So we tend to think of them as these Robin Hood-esque figures who are stealing from the wealthy and giving to the poor, or taking care of each other. But in reality, it was a very cutthroat sort of business.

Brendan: In the game, you can get pet monkeys or parrots, and they follow you on the ship. Were animals allowed on pirate vessels? Can I bring my cat to sea?

Jamie Goodall: There’s debate about this. Some historians believe that pirates did keep pets of some sort, just to have companionship. Others argue that they wouldn’t have kept pets because most of these animals, like monkeys or parrots for example, were considered exotic and therefore brought a lot of profit. And so rather than keep them for yourself, you were more than likely going to sell them. So it depends on which historiographical trend you believe. I’m of the mindset that they probably didn’t keep very many pets on board. Although we probably have a few pirates who did. But I would say for the most part, that’s just more mouths to feed. And really it takes away from your duties as a pirate, if you’re constantly caring for your companion animal.

Narrator (soundbite): These faithful four-legged friends are ready to sniff out adventure and journey across the seas in search of the tastiest of treats.

Brendan: When a pirate vessel sees a ship on the horizon, you know, what kind of vessel would they go for? How did they know from a distance what was going to be… worth a punt? You know?

Jamie Goodall: Well, it’s pretty easy for them to tell the difference between a merchant ship and a naval vessel. So that was one thing that they would have to keep an eye out for… is to differentiate between those two. Because the last thing they would want to do is attack a naval vessel because for the most part, their pirate ships would have been no match for a naval vessel. But if they did determine that it was a merchant ship, they tended to try to use ruses. If they could see the flags, a flag that was being flown by the merchant ship, they might raise the same flag so that the person might think that they were a friendly ship. And then of course, as they got close to the point that that ship couldn’t escape, they would then raise their pirate flag, as a sign of terror. And by that point it would have been too late for the merchant ship to escape. The use of flags is really important to pirates when it comes to how they attack a merchant ship.

Narrator (soundbite): Perfect for sending unwanted boarders does back into the depths.

Brendan: When they actually proceeded with an attack, what did that attack look like? Were there cannon blasts? Were there gunshots? Were they swinging via rope onto the other deck, or was it much more placid than that?

Jamie Goodall: So they would try to keep the shooting to a minimum because if they use too much cannon fire, then they risked destroying the commodities that they were trying to steal. Typically what they would try to do is get as close to the ship that they’re trying to attack as possible. And then they could place planks over to cross from one ship to another. Boarding the ship was really important because that was the way that they could get the crew to surrender.

Brendan: If you’re a sailor and you’re on the receiving end of a pirate attack, is there some procedure back then, in the Golden Age of piracy, that you’re supposed to follow? Or is it just every man for himself?

Jamie Goodall: Yeah, I mean, it’s sort of every man for himself in some sense. Of course the merchants… the owners of the merchant ship would expect you to lay your life down, to protect their investment.

Brendan: [Laughter] Get outta here, guys!

Jamie Goodall: Yeah. But of course the sailors were like, “Absolutely not. My life is worth more than your goods.” And so a lot depended on if they were armed or not. Some merchants armed their sailors, some didn’t – to prevent mutiny, for example. And if you were unarmed, you typically surrendered to the pirates immediately. If you knew what was good for you, because you wouldn’t want to risk your life.

Brendan: And you said that sometimes… if you were there, you would be press ganged into a pirate crew yourself? Or you would seek to join them?

Jamie Goodall: It depended. Sometimes they would impress you into service, yeah. This was particularly true if, say for example, a pirate ship attacked a merchant vessel and it had a mix of Frenchmen and Englishmen. They would typically take the Englishman and press them into service. And they would either take as prisoners the French men, or they would maroon them, or they might let them go. But Englishmen were very valuable to pirates because, for the most part, the pirates are English. And so the communication aspect is really important. But [for] others, it was a situation where they were fed up with their life on board the merchant vessel and they might ask to join the pirate crew.

Narrator (soundbite): You’ll not only bag yourself plenty of high-value loot but also a ritual skull, which you can go on to use in a daring assault on the force of the damned.

Brendan: We’ve talked about the Golden Age of piracy and pirates as if they’re long gone, but piracy on the sea still exists today, right?

Jamie Goodall: Yes, it does. We tend to think of the pirates off the coast of Somalia as the modern day pirates, but we also have evidence of piracy occurring in, for example, the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of that has to do with drug runners, but they do attack yachts and wealthier people’s boats to take the goods, like their jewelry and money and that sort of thing. So piracy absolutely still exists today… They also – modern day pirates – will take people and hold them for ransom, which was not uncommon in the Golden Age. Blackbeard did this actually off the coast of South Carolina when his men were sick and dying. Primarily, they were suffering from syphilis and he seized a boat with some of the most prominent gentlemen from Charleston. And he held them for ransom until the governor sent him a chest of medicine that he could use to heal his sick crew. Fortunately for the men, Blackbeard let them go. But not before he stripped them basically naked and sent them back to shore that way.

Brendan: What a guy.

Jamie Goodall: Yeah. He had a reputation to uphold, you know?

Brendan: Jamie Goodall. Thank you very much for joining us.

Jamie Goodall: Well, thank you so much for having me.

Brendan: We’ve learned a lot.

Narrator (soundbite): Well, what are you waiting for?

[Interview ends]

Pip: By the way, I loved her disclaimer. It’s like, “these are not the views of the US government.”

Brendan: “These aren’t the views of the US government. Their view on pirates is something else.”

Pip: “They currently do not have a view on Stede Bonnet’s midlife crisis.”

Brendan: That was Dr. Jamie Goodall. If you want a longer version of the chat in which she told us more about pirates, including the types of clothes they wore, the kinds of flags that they flew, what the symbols on those flags meant, and other things, like if it’s true whether they buried their treasure or not, then you can get the long version of the interview by subscribing to our Patreon. You can find out how to do that at patreon.com/heylesson, or by following the link in the show notes. Pip, I know you like Sea of Thieves, but how big are you into pirates in general? Like, do you consume a lot of pirate media?

Pip: Ooh. I think when I was a kid I found them interesting because at school, I remember we did a… you know, in the same vein as you study minibeasts and dinosaurs and things, you also did a bit about pirates. But that would have been very top-level stuff. And I remember there being like a couple of books that I had that were… aimed at… eight- or nine-year-olds that I was really into. About pirates and, you know, you’d learn about the more fun kind of bits of it, like Blackbeard’s fiery tapers in his beard. And you’d learn about ships biscuits and weevils and exotic birds and things like that. And I think, you know… I’ve seen Muppet Treasure Island once. So I think all of that will have definitely skimmed over a lot of the, uh, the more difficult or the more dangerous or unpalatable bits of piracy and definitely focused in on the drama. And I guess the romance of it all.

Brendan: Do you prefer your pirates fantasy flavoured then? Like a Sea of Thieves type pirates, Pirates of the Caribbean or something. Or would you like them to be a bit more rowdier and historically accurate?

Pip: I don’t actually know because… this is the thing where automatically you end up needing to consider privilege because like, “Oh, well, I’ll just take this version of it that doesn’t really deal with any of the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean”. And it’s such an odd one to think about, especially over the last few years. And I’m actually surprised that… Do you remember when… remember back in the mess of about three weeks ago? When sea shanties were having a moment on Twitter or whatever, and there was a lot of discussion around, you know, actually where rum came from and where sugar [came from] and all of the products that are mentioned in these songs and the places… but it never seems to come up in the discourse around Sea of Thieves. As Jamie was saying, the idea was that a lot of goods were coming out of these colonized places. And so it was essentially a fight between the merchants and the empires versus the people who wanted to intercept those things and take them for their own. That element is almost completely absent from Sea of Thieves. Except as a kind of… I don’t know, you’re almost just salvaging. You’re not pirates unless it’s against other players in the game. The thing that actually really struck me while I was thinking about the game, while I was listening to Jamie, was [that] the times the game feels unenjoyable to me are probably the times when it’s closest to what she’s describing as actual piracy. You know, the times when a ship in the game will fly a friendly flag and then come over to you and then start shooting you. That… that feels unfair. And I hate it.

Brendan: Do players do that kind of thing in the game? Because I know you can raise flags in the game.

Pip: I’ve definitely had one or two experiences when they’ve flown like an ‘Alliance’ flag and then started firing, or if I’ve just been quietly fishing and had like a little chat conversation, just sort of saying, “Hey, I’m just fishing to do a bounty… I genuinely don’t have anything aboard.” And then they’ll be like, “Oh, okay, fine.” Then you know, they come aboard and stab you anyway. Or they’ll sink your ship just for the hell of it. And you’re like, “Okay, well, um…” And those sessions are the ones where I’ve actually been more likely to quit out or just not go back to the game for a while because it felt unfair and mean. And it’s like, “Oh yeah, no, that was…

Brendan: “Oh yeah, that’s what pirates are…”

Pip: It’s like, “Oh yeah, no, that’s… hmmm….”

Brendan: I need you to describe what your pirate character looks like in Sea of Thieves… I need to know if you have hooks for hands, peg legs.

Pip: Okay. I think the aesthetic I’ve gone for is like a kind of “Britain’s Hardest Grandma”. With a chin you could break rocks on and just very good but functional short hair. She has her limbs intact, sometimes a hook arm but purely for cosmetic reasons. And I don’t dress her up really in anything unless it’s to annoy a fellow crew member. Well, actually the reason that she doesn’t dress up is to annoy a fellow crew member. Because one of my friends hates the very basic ragged outfit. And so I’m just sort of strolling around in an undershirt and shorts and the equivalent of pool slides or something. My thinking is that if I dress incredibly basic and don’t equip any of the game titles like “Hunter of Krakens” or whatever, then people will think that I’m really low level and be surprised if I have basic competence and can take them in a fight. Which is, I feel like that’s really sneaky. And then I completely undo it by having the fanciest ship that you’ve ever seen.

Brendan: That’s a real pirate move. To pretend you’re just a lowly deck hand and then whip out a pair of the most ridiculous looking guns you’ve ever seen.

Pip: I mean, it would be, but then I’m basically piloting a parade float across the ocean. So it’s like, “Okay, yeah, you’ve got some hours in this game.”

Brendan: Do you have a pet that you keep on on board?

Pip: I do. I think you’ve met her. She’s called Pippakeet. She’s a little green parrot and she wears a little banana outfit. I didn’t buy any of the pets because I thought I would feel too guilty having to choose between them.

Brendan: I got a pet, I got a cat and he’s called Admiral Fangs.

Pip: Oh, that’s so cute.

Brendan: He wears a little officer’s hat.

Pip: Yeah. It’s really cool, seeing people’s pets. You can get a lot out of what they’ve named them because there’s a fair few cats that I’ve seen around. There’s Gary the dog. Boris the cat, I’ve seen. It’s just nice how they interact. Because if you play your musical instrument or whatever they dance, and if you sit down, they sit down next to you… all of that. It’s very cute. If you fire them out of a cannon, you then have to wash them off if you want them to not be sooty anymore. You know, the usual pet ownership things.

Brendan: Yes, of course. You’ve talked a little bit about your least favorite moments being involved in the PVP and getting attacked and stuff like that. But what are your favorite moments? What’s your favorite piratical thing to do?

Pip: One of the favorite things I did fairly recently was… there was a ship of players that were bothering a friend and I as we were voyaging. And initially we ran away and then I was like, “No, I think we can take them.” So, as we were sailing away – there was just two of us and I think there were about three or four of them – I do this thing where I drop off the side of the boat. So… slightly out of sight of them. And I have fire bombs on my person. And so I just sort of wait until their boat comes up to me and then I just firebomb them from the water. And by the time they’ve gone past a mermaid will have spawned, which is the fast travel thing that gets you back to your boat. So I can just rinse and repeat doing that for ages, because usually we’ve stocked up on quite a lot of firebombs and it means that they are permanently trying to put out a fire as well as pursue, and all of that stuff. But on that voyage of my friend and I were taking it in turns, and then… she just thought, “Well, okay, they’re on fire. I’m getting on the boat.” And so got on the boat, killed a couple of them, I think, and then went downstairs and took their firebombs and pelted more of them on the thing. And then they sank. And so that was a very, you know, clap your hands, job well done. Off we go.

Brendan: I love how you’re complaining about getting killed when you’re trying to do fishing and stuff, but you yourself are one of the most deceptive, efficient pirates.

Pip: I think the thing that makes me morally completely untarnished in these moments is that we try running away first. It’s always only if they are in pursuit and trying to keep the fight going. It’s like, “Oh, okay. If you want to fight, we’ll have a fight. You’ll regret it.” But yeah, there’s a lot of satisfaction in giving them the chance to not be a jerk and then absolutely pummeling them for doing so.

Brendan: Jamie was saying that there has to be a certain amount of shared discipline on board, cooperation between players. Because… like you say, other people are in your crew online. How does the shipboard behavior shake out in Sea of Thieves? I know that there’s a brig you can put people in.

Pip: Yeah. You have to have like a majority vote for that… I think it was a lot more common at the beginning because it was just fun to troll friends while you were figuring out those mechanics. Largely we tend to forget about the brig now and only use it as, like, a trolling punishment really. I do end up like captaining a fair amount, depending on the group of friends. Some of them, it’s a lot more of a democracy and you’ll pass stuff back and forth, and definitely playing regularly with a particular groups of friends you get a feel for who prefers what. Like, I’m pretty versatile, I would say. So I’m happy map-reading. I’m happy shooting at things. I’m happy steering. I’m happy just doing whichever thing, whatever slot needs filling. But I definitely have a friend who just likes to fish as the sea goes by. I have a friend who far prefers the navigation aspect, so we’ll just happily leave him… on the ship’s wheel and just sort of shout directions every now and again, or yell, “Oh, we’re about to hit a rock!” And then there’s a crushing noise. And it’s like, “Nevermind.” There’s a definite mix of ordering around and democracy. And I think it actually reflects a bit of what Jamie was talking about because the ordering-about tends to come far more in any fighting encounters. You do need somebody who’s calling the shots or coordinating things often.

Brendan: In terms of pirates as a pop culture theme, what’s your favorite pirate trope?

Pip: In what way? What’s yours?

Brendan: I like when they maroon people, but I don’t think it happens in Sea of Thieves really. Because you talked about the magic mermaid who appears and just lets you respawn back on your boat. But I like it whenever someone’s just abandoned on an Island, I enjoy when that happens in pirate stories.

Pip: I do really like that idea of buried treasure. Of that weird form of banking and the idea that you could go back and get it later. And obviously, in the extended cut of the interview people can find out whether that was real or not, but it’s definitely a thing that bleeds over into real life because you do sort of think, “Oh… it could be anywhere!” You know… it sort of romanticizes the ground a little.

Brendan: The ground suddenly has mystery, mystique, a character, charisma!

Pip: Yeah!

Brendan: But it’s just dirt.

Pip: I mean the ground is interesting anyway if you, you know, approach it from particular angles. But this idea that you could suddenly unearth a cache of incredibly valuable stuff that nobody else has a claim to is… I think that has captivated people over centuries, right? That’s a thing that I think persists, this idea that if you can just follow a map, if you can get a magic map basically, and follow the instructions, then you – YOU – will be chosen for riches.

Brendan: We’ve sailed the seas together once. And my fondest memory of that voyage was towards the end, we were finishing up our session of gaming and we scuttled our own ship. And I want you to explain this process to our listeners because it’s not an endgame activity or a quest or a thing that the game says you should do. It’s just this ritual that you seem to have.

Pip: It’s not just me, I should add! I’m not just some weirdo scuttling ships hither and yon along the coast. But yeah, it’s… So, across the voyage, you will have your ship. If it gets fully sunk… you’ll spawn an entirely new one. And so it will be pristine. But often you’ll finish a session, like two hours of gaming, with this slightly patched-up, dented hull of a thing that you’ve had to repair because of storms or because of fighting or because you drove it into a big old rock. And it kind of… it bears the scars of the voyage. And so rather than just log out and have that really weird, jarring, digital wink out of existence, I think quite a few people – certainly that I know, and maybe I’m the common factor, maybe I am the problem – find a nice way of rounding off the evening is to, you know, scuttle the ship somehow. Not by using the in-game command to do so, but setting it on fire with fire bombs or doing something to it that means that it gradually sinks. And the way that we tend to play out that ritual is to stand on the dock as we watch it go down and play the saddest song on the game’s… roster of things you can put on the accordion. And just to watch it gradually fall out of existence. There’s something quite… I think that ritual helps it feel like we’re saying goodbye at the end of a session, rather than just… that abrupt digital [end]. The other way that we’ve done it is to sail off the edge of the world. If you sail off the map in Sea of Thieves – it’s a pretty big map but if you sail off it, you don’t wrap around to the other side… the sea gradually goes blood red and then starts to crush your hull. And so you can destroy your boat that way.

Brendan: For such a bright game, that’s dark.

Pip: Yeah. It’s a very kind of… crushing pressure of the ocean kind of ending… So we don’t do that as often. Plus also you’re usually in port at that point because you’ve sold all the remaining treasure. So… it’s a bit of a faff to go to the edge of the world.

Brendan: All right. That’s it for another episode of Hey Lesson, I’ve been Brendan Caldwell, your host, and Pip Warr has been Pip Warr.

Pip: Yarrr.

Brendan: Pip Yarr!

Pip: Pip Yarrr!

Brendan: Thank you very much for joining us again, Pip.

Pip: No worries. Pleasure.

Brendan: And thank you for captaining me across the waves that one time.

Pip: That was fun. We should do it again.

Brendan: If people want to follow your work or they want more Pip in their existence, please tell them: how do they that?

Pip: I think at the moment Twitter’s probably the best bet. So that’s @Philippawarr. It’s P-H-I-L-I-P-P-A-W-A-R-R.

Brendan: I’ll put a link to it as well in the show notes. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, mateys, please consider supporting Hey Lesson. You can throw some doubloons in our tin cup by following the links in the show notes. Notice I’m peppering this speil with pirate talk. Regular donors get some extra goodies, including a monthly bonus episode in which we are loosed from the shackles of having an expert. In other words, myself, and one other guest just chat. One of those episodes, like I say, was even about Sea of Thieves. So if you feel you want another perspective on it, you can hear what Astrid likes about it in that bonus episode.

[They begin talking in pirate voices]

Pip: A veritable bounty!

Brendan: A bounteous bonus episode!

Pip: Full of the delights of the sea!.

Brendan: A salty episode!

[The pirate voices mercifully stop]

Brendan: On top of the bonus things, you can also feel good about supporting a show that doesn’t pester you with ads or sponsorship nonsense. We only pester you about joining the Patreon. Lastly, a big shout out to all those who are currently patrons. Thank you to all of you, without you I couldn’t do this. And a shout out to some of our toppest crewmates aboard the good ship Hey Lessen – shout out to First Mate at Bok Choy, Quartermaster Horrendamonas, and valuable deck hand Milk Is Gross And Bad For You. That’s it. That’s all the spiel done. Again, Pip, thank you for coming on.

Pip: No worries.

Brendan: And to all of you out there – thanks for lessoning. Goodbye.

Pip: Byeeee.

Leave a Reply