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Ship and pirate, from Ultima IV manual
First appearance: Ultima I
Last appearance: Ultima IX

Pirates are sea-faring bandits which attack and rob merchant vessels as a means of livelihood.


Age of Darkness[edit]

In early Sosaria, piracy was a constant threat to mariners from every realm, with these criminals holding dominance over the oceans of the world. In the days of Ultima I, travelers stood a moderate chance against the cannon-fitted ships of these marauders, as vessels could at the very least be hired at port cities. By the time of Exodus incursions in Ultima III, however, the pirates of the land had massed into a unified fleet, sinking all merchant and military ships in Sosaria.[1] In such an age, the only reliable means of sea travel for an honest mariner was to overtake a pirate-controlled frigate when it landed ashore to launch an attack.

Age of Enlightenment[edit]

Even with the christening of Britannia and the ensuing age of philosophy and learning, the fleets of the Lord British's kingdom were still near to non-existent by the time of Ultima IV, with the trade of ship building still not yet reclaimed from its decline following disaster of the pirate fleet. In these days, the settlement of Buccaneer's Den came to be established, providing safe haven to those sailors who would live outside the realm's laws and creating an entrenched home for the blossoming Guild of Thieves. As if to add a flourish of the supernatural to these high days of piracy, the Isle of the Abyss was at this time guarded by a mysterious fleet of ghostly pirate galleons, which relentlessly attacked all who tried to make the pilgrimage to the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.

With time, however, the Age of Enlightenment took its toll on the practice of piracy. Ship-building was reborn as a common trade. The lighthouses were erected and eventually fell. Law and civilization made the land less wild. In time, pirate ships became an infrequent sight on Britannian waters, with most criminals keeping inland.

Age of Armageddon[edit]

By the early Age of Armageddon, piracy had almost become a romanticized image of the past, with many former pirates selling the common folk of Britannia a stylized fantasy of their previous lives in the increasingly tourism-oriented Buccaneer's Den. During this era, a few enclaves of enterprising crews populated the obscure isles of the realm, but the bulk of criminal enterprise was to be found in subtle exploitation and corruption. Ex-pirates found a welcome niche within the hierarchy of the burgeoning Fellowship.

During the last days of the Avatar's adventuring in the realm, piracy appeared to have enjoyed a resurgence in Britannia, although most of these raiders were landed, as the Silver Hart was the only available vessel in the realm. With a new-found black market for Serpentwyne and a spike in vice following the raising of the Guardian's columns, the pirates of the land once more appeared as in their glory days, and the hero faced numerous assaults at the hands of these reinvigorated rogues.

Pirates on Earth[edit]

During Minax's alteration of Earth's history, piracy plagued all ages accessible by time doors, resulting in bizarre anachronisms as these sea-faring marauders roamed the oceans of Miocene pre-history and the craters of Pluto alike. In this strange mixing of ages, pirate crews would happily grant passage to those bearing tokens known as blue tassles, and otherwise hostile vessels could be placated by presenting such an item.

In the post-apocalyptic 22nd century of this time stream, the seemingly Soviet-controlled settlement of Pirates Harbour and the alien city of Towne Makler both boasted sizable pirate populations. It is presumed that these, along with the ahistorical prevalence of pirates throughout time, disappeared with the death of Minax.


The pirates that infest the coastal waters of Sosaria are the scourge of the honest mariner. They ply the waterways seeking unarmed merchant ships to plunder, and often press the younger crew members into service as marauders. Once engaged, a pirate vessel and its crew will battle to the end, seeking no quarter and offering none.
Be extremely cautious when one of these ships is sighted if thou art on land. A Pirate Ship can fire its cannons at thee three squares away. If the shot hits, all members of thy Party take damage. Most beginning Parties cannot sustain more than a few shots before the Party is wiped out. If the Pirate Ship stays offshore, shelling thee, nothing can be done to get him. If, however, he touches the coast, thou couldst attack him.
Truly the dregs of Britannia, most of these crews have death warrants hanging over their heads. Remember that the evil Pirates take no prisoners! Their ships are equipped with heavy cannons, and the crews are well-trained to quickly move their large galleons into battle position. It is a rare skipper indeed that can survive a broadside duel with a Pirate vessel. Thy best hope is to "dot the T", or to close with thy enemy. If thou art able to defeat the crew, the ship itself becomes thy prize. For castaways on remote islands, this is the only hope for salvation.
as I made my way south along the western shore, I caught a glimpse of something moving on the waves of the lake. At first I thought it was a figment of my imagination, but then it moved again. Finally it came close enough that I could see it was a small ship. The sail was puffed out and the ship move quickly over the water. At the top of the mast a small flag whipped about in the breeze. The flag was black with a white skull and crossbones in the middle. The Jolly Roger. It was a pirate ship.
I had just realized this when the ship's cannon fired. A cannonball landed in front of me, sending up a huge plume of dirt and knocking me on my back. The force of the fall onto the cold ground knocked the breathe out of me. Lying there gasping for air, I wondered what I'd done to provoke them. Then I realized it didn't matter. they were going to kill me if I didn't get up and defend myself.

These marauders of the sea steal, and if the spirits move them, kill without compunction. Often condemned to execution, pirates escape to forgotten ports to live their remaining days in decadent liberty. Beware of the Buccaneer's Den where a community of lawlessness has thrived. A warrior equipped for war is a target for a band of pirates. If you dispatch a pirate, fear not a retribution. Pirates forget their own, lawful citizens find them a nuisance, and the King is loath to pursue these dangerous roustabouts who have nothing to lose but life itself.
- from Journal (Ultima IX)

Notable Examples[edit]

Pirate Map


  • In Ultima IX, a hostile (and, for the setting, rather anachronistically dressed) pirate could be found roaming the park near the Avatar's house on earth, and would attack if approached. How and why he came to be there is unknown.

See Also[edit]


  1. Adams, Roe R.. "Preparing for Thy Journey". The Book of Play (Ultima III). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1983. Page 8.