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On Pirates: treasure maps and treasure

Brian Matyas


I've been playing a lot of Sea of Thieves lately. Like a lot.

Its got me thinking about treasure maps and treasure.

First off, an aside. I love pirates. The idea more than the much darker reality surrounding classical to modern freebooters. Given that, it does seem like an under represented area of fantasy, besides the generic every ocean has pirates present in places like the Forgotten realms. More pirate focused settings please! (For some good material, I recommend Pirates! an apocalypse world sourcebook and the associated Billy Bones. His Book of Nautical Nonpareils and Mechanical Marvels)

Treasure maps: I've found them to be an excellent tool for driving player engagement. I like giving puzzles out in my games (follow the Rule of 3! there should always be other ways to find out info). Who doesn't want to see what's under the X at the end? I'd stay away from the standard dotted line on a map and try to stick to more interesting maps, like these 3 from Sea of Thieves:

- Riddle maps. They tell you where to go (an island, an area, etc), then follow with finding landmarks on the island to narrow down and eventually track the 'X'. At the place where the parrot calls (a tree full of parrots) raise a lantern to reveal the way. Great for hex-maps. Bonus points for rhyming riddles. Works best when players have seen the landmarks before on an island.

- Island maps. An actual map, gives the outline of an island, a few orienting landmarks, and the 'X'. Good way to introduce people to an island, but the 'puzzle' here is identifying the correct island on a map and getting there. Throw up side flares along the way, like a burning island along the way, enemy ships, etc. Needs a region map to work. Probably works well for West Marches games with well-mapped regions.

- Step/landmark maps. Similar to riddle maps, but more clear. Might be hidden in a cipher. Tells the exact steps needed to reach a place, like an island. Go past the volcano island until you hit the Crystal Falls. Face north and sail until the Seaweed Tangle. That type of thing. Works well for more abstract treasure, like an island of allies or harvestable resources.

Sea of thieves has enough of these that can easily be stolen to for your game.

Treasure: Here's a few samples of Big Fucking Treasure to find at the end of the map:

- Skull embedded with crystal shards. Sees the future.

- Chest of golden bones. Skull missing. May be a friendly skeleton. Emblazoned with the seared symbol of the Blackened Rib.

- The Five Tomes of Resurrection. Need the full set for a true resurrection. Crumbles to dust afterwards.

- The sword of hoarded gold. Causes limbs to turn to gold on critical hits.

- The First Rum. Drinking this would be akin to heresy among pirates. One of the 7 objects needed to declare oneself the Pirate Lord


... oh and go do yourself a favor and play Monkey Island!


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