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This article is referred to by many other articles and is desperately looking for an editor who feels up to the task of properly describing what is considered this game's most important feature. We also welcome the inclusion of the more speculative subjects such as common tactics and considerations as long as they are serious additions.

Whenever a player engages in combat with enemy ships, PotBS creates an instance[1] of Sea Combat. This is an isolated section of ocean (covering a much smaller area than the Open Sea map) where ships maneuver and may fire weapons at, board, and sink each other.

Most sea combat takes place between ships of two different nations, however sea combat occurring as part of a mission can involve myriad numbers of sides and ships.


Sea combat is initiated through one of several methods:

  • A player attacks a player or NPC on the open sea
  • An NPC pursues and catches a player on the open sea
  • A player starts a mission from the Boatsman Coxswain involving sea combat
  • The server invites players to participate in a Port Battle

On the open sea, a player may initiate combat with a valid NPC or player combat by pressing the Engage Enemy button. Once the target is within 3 miles, the game automatically sends both ships into an instance of Sea Combat. Additionally when an NPC is pursuing a player, if it gets close enough to the player sea combat is initiated.

Open Sea: Player vs. Player[]

A player may only attack another player if his target is flagged for PvP.

Here are some ways a player can be a valid target:

  • A player has turned on their PvP flag by accepting the Enable my PvP Flag mission from the Port Captain.
  • A player is in a Pirate PvP zone (outer red circle) and the attacker is a Pirate or a Privateer with the skill Sanctioned Piracy.
  • A player is in the open PvP (inner red circle) zone of a port.

For instructions on how to fight other players read the PvP Guide.

Open Sea: NPC vs. Player[]

Players can attack any NPC of an enemy nation.

NPC will attack players of enemy nations more frequently when that player's reputation with the nation is lower. NPC only consider players of their level and up to 5 levels below them as targets. For example, a level 20 player will be attacked by NPC of the levels 20 to 25. A level 50 player will only be attacked by level 50 NPC as there are no hostile NPC above level 50 in the game at this point.

Turning on your PvP flag will make all NPCs ignore you completely.


Sea combat is much more serious than Avatar Combat for the simple reason that you can lose your ship, outfitting, and unsecured cargo. Whereas in avatar combat, if you lose/die, you can simply revive via Smelling Salts or give up, becoming defeated in sea combat has the following serious consequences:

  • The ship you are currently sailing loses 1 point of durability and you are transported to the nearest friendly port.
    • If that ship's durability is reduced to zero, the ship is destroyed and your character takes command of another of your ships and is transferred to the port where it is docked.
  • You lose any outfitting you have in your sails, gun and hull outfitting slots. You don't lose outfitting in the general outfitting slots.
  • You lose any unsecured cargo you were carrying in your ship's hold, including deeds, raw and manufactured materials, etc.


A ship is defeated in sea combat when one of the following occurs:

  • The ship's internal structure is reduced to zero
  • The ship is boarded and loses the boarding combat
  • The captain chooses to abandon ship.

Although in the latter two cases a derelict remains, all the above conditions are colloquially referred to by players as "getting sunk" as a player ship will still lose 1 durability point.


There is another way to lose a Sea Combat. During a Player vs Player fight you can offer to surrender. You can offer a percentile of your unsecured cargo to the attacking players. If the attacking player accepts your surrender he will get a random part of your unsecured cargo based on that percentile. You will keep the rest (if any) and you will not lose durability or outfitting.

Avoiding Sea Combat[]

Because of the serious consequences of being sunk, there are numerous situations where one may want to avoid sea combat:

  • A player of a rival nation is higher level, in a ship better geared for combat, or has more friends than you
  • An NPC is pursuing you and he is too high to defeat, or you'd rather not fight an NPC at this time

In these situations, you can do some things to avoid sea combat:

  • Use a skill to avoid combat such as Misdirection (skill).
  • Depending on the career you have chosen or the ship you are using. One should complement the ship or the style of play you are seeking with the proper skills. It is important to review the skills you can obtain within your career's skill tree. Often times, the solution isn't to rely only on pure statistical advantage, but through the right timing and proper application of a skill or type of shot (bar, round shot, or anti-crew).
  • Use a very fast ship and attempt to escape any combat (see Tackling).
  • Use a ship with a low visibility such as the 'Hermes' Sleek Packet-Boat and outfit it with additional stealth benefits such as Dark-Wrapped Gear.
  • Avoid red PvP areas.
  • With smaller ships, NPCs won't typically see you unless you are within a few miles of them on the open sea. For this reason, keep an eye on your radar and watch for red triangles, and you can simply turn a bit from them to give you more breathing room. If they do give chase, chances are your ship will be fast enough to outrun them.
  • Often, the most important thing to do is not panic. Some instance maps present you with options, be they islands or close escape points.
  • Just be observant of the sea around you. If you are vigilant, you can often times set up your escape prior to inevitable engagement. Placing your ship at its best point of sail, maybe tagging your opponent prior to them deciding when it is best for them.
  • Make use of your ships acceleration in the beginning of an engagement. If you immediately decide to turn using 'A' and 'D' you will effectively kill your acceleration rate. Often, the engagement is decided by the initial sprint of each player's ship to its best speed. If you waste that initial burst to top speed on turning, you have given the opponent the advantage of not having to catch you.
  • Use the auto-rudder function (ask in your nation what this is). It is the best compromise between maintaining acceleration, top speed, and getting to your best point of sail.

Fleet Sizes[]

Sea combat versus NPC fleets include up to 6 players and can include any amount of hostile NPCs. Typically NPC fleets consist of between 1 and 12 ships. The amount of ships in the enemy fleet can be seen when you select the fleet on the Open Sea.

Missions can include up to 6 players. Some missions are limited to less players including some missions which are limited to a single player. Missions can include any amount of NPCs both hostile and friendly.

PvP combat on the open sea can include a maximum of 6 players on each side.

Port battles usually include 24 players on each side leading to a massive 48 ship battle.


Ships behave much differently in instanced sea combat than on the open sea. The open sea is more of a strategic map, and ships move much faster (relatively) than in sea combat. Sea combat is a tactical battlefield, and is the only place where ships can actually fire their weapons and inflict damage.

Sailing & Maneuvering[]

Wind direction is even more important in sea combat than on the open sea, as the penalty for ships sailing into the wind at unfavorable angles is much more pronounced.

All ships have a Best Point statistic, which is the angle from the bow that the wind should be striking the ship for it to achieve full speed. For most ships this angle is 45-degrees off of the stern (135-degree best point), or to the side of the ship (90-degree best point).

Ship speed is also vitally important. Not only does it allow you to outmaneuver and potentially rake your opponent, but it can enable you to run away when outmatched or chase down an unwilling opponent. A ship's turn rate is increased the higher their current speed is.

High speed will also negatively affect your accuracy if you exceed what your Target Tracking can handle. Your speed and heading can also negatively impact your opponent's accuracy, if you are moving quickly relative to their gunner's point of view (relative movement).

For detailed information on sailing, see Sailing 101 to 103 - A Crash Course by Taelorn.

Full Sails & Battle Sails[]

When you press W/Up and S/Down (by default) to raise and lower your sails, a slider (throttle) in the middle of your ship diagram moves up and down. 1/3 of the way down this throttle is a horizontal line, indicating the difference between full sails and battle sails. When the slider is noticeably below the mark, your crew will rig battle sails. You can tell you're low enough when your ship will start to furl the bottommost sails on each of your masts.

While rigged for battle sails, your sails receive a +15 defense bonus. That means that Dismantling Shots aimed at you receives a 15% to hit penalty.

More about Battle Sails here.


Gun arcs/broadsides, range, damage, types of shot, etc.

Link to A Treatise on Combat Mechanics[2].

Hit Chance[]

The hit chance is decided by adding together several bonuses and penalties.

The base Hit Chance is 100 to this you add/subtract the range modifier and add any accuracy bonuses from ship/skill/equipment. You then subtract the defense value of the target ship, any defense bonuses the target might have from skills/equipment and the any speed/relative speed penalty not negated by Target Tracking. The final value is the Hit Chance.

Example: Ship A with 14lb cannons is firing at Ship B 400 yards away. Ship A is moving at 10 knots, the relative speed difference is 20 knots and his Target Tracking is 19. Ship B has a defense value of 25 and another 10 defense from skills. What is the final hit chance?

  • 100 Base accuracy.
  • -9 range modifier for a 14lb gun at 400 yard.
  • -20 for his own speed and -6 for the relative speed, + 19 for tracking to negate means -7 total. This value can never be positive.
  • -25 for ship defense.
  • -10 for skills defense.

Total Hit Chance = 100 - 9 - 7 - 25 - 10 = 49%

Each cannon fired is a separate random roll using the above hit chance.

Armor, Sails, and Crew[]

Damage Reduction, damage resistance, structure, effects of crew loss, effects of sail loss? etc.

Effect of Crew Damage

As you take crew damage, two of your stats get reduced based on your career.

75% crew = Harried, -10%

50% crew = Beleaguered, -20%

25% crew = Desperate, -50%

Freetrader: Turning, Reload

Navy: Acceleration, Turning

Pirate: Acceleration, Reload

Privateer: Acceleration, Reload

So a Pirate with 38% crew will suffer a 20% penalty to Acceleration and Reload.

Gun Loss

Guns take constant damage. The rate at which guns are destroyed is a ratio of the structure + armor on a side. Most ships are reduced to 45% of their guns on a side when they have no structure and no armor remaining for a facing. As a result, structure damage can destroy guns on all facings. Since guns are constantly taking damage, repairing your structure or armor does not help to offset the effect. Every point of armor/structure damage you take results in a fractional amount of damage to guns until it adds up enough to destroy a gun.

Ships below level 10 intentionally lose guns at a slower rate since the loss of 1 gun is so important.

Link to A Treatise on Combat Mechanics[3].

Player Skills[]

Brief overview of player skills, morale, toggles, some examples of skill effects. Links to classes and skill trees.


How grappling % is figured?

See Boarding Guide.


See Pennants and Commendations.

Exiting Combat[]

A ship leaves combat after not performing and receiving any hostile action for a period of 2 minutes or by destroying the last hostile target within 1500 yards. Once a ship is out of combat it will slowly repair any damage sustained and the rate of repairing will increase the longer the ship remains out of combat.

Game mechanics currently recognize combat activities only as actually hitting a target. Shooting and missing with every shot is not considered a hostile action, neither is being shot at, but not hit. Using debuff skills such as Military Intelligence or Identify Weakness will put both the user and the target into combat.

Player ships that are no longer in combat may leave any encounter.


Line Combat[]

The line of battle is a naval tactic in which the ships are formed in a line end-to-end. This formation rose to prominence during the mid-1600’s and takes advantage of the construction of naval ships at that time.

Virtually all ships in Pirates of the Burning Sea have their guns arranged in two batteries along the sides of the ship, with only a few mounted toward the bow or stern. Similarly, the strongest timbers of a ship are along its sides, with weak armor in the bow and stern. Forming a line of battle protects these weak spots by virtue of the fact that a friendly ship is in front of or behind the weak spots, thus denying their use to the enemy. Also, the formation of a line allows each ship to discharge its guns without fear of hitting a friendly ship. The only way to effectively combat this threat is to form your own line, and so this tactic dominated naval combat for over three centuries. Ships that could stand up to combat in line were referred to as a ship-of-the-line.

There are four main disadvantages to be overcome in a line of battle, guns, speed, maneuverability and teamwork. The main purpose of a line of battle is to make the most efficient use of your guns. This means that for most players under level 20, a line of battle may not be the best option. Because ships carrying many cannon with large calibers do not make their appearance until after level 20, this tactic is not the most effective. A line of battle is typically slow in order to increase the accuracy of the guns, and because the line of battle can only move as fast as the slowest ship. Each ship in the line must give up its own maneuverability in order to keep the line intact. Teamwork is a necessity for all members. Each captain should be willing to obey the leader. Communication between the leader and the captains is essential to achieving maximum efficiency.

How to form lines. Before entering combat as a group, there should be some basic structure in the group. The captains should elect one of their number (usually the highest level Naval Officer) to be the commander of the group. Each captain should be assigned a place in the line, with the larger, less maneuverable Ships-of-the-Line in the center. While actual movement during combat may not be difficult, it is important that the group as a whole practice forming the battle line, falling out of line, turning while in line, and other various exercises.

Line Tactics The line of battle is most effective during Port Battles, when there are many ships, and potentially first or second-class ships-of-the-line. A line of battle should, if possible, move perpendicular to the axis of movement of the enemy fleet, commonly known as “crossing the T,” or breaking the enemy line, as was done by Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar. Other common tactics include isolating a portion of the enemies line and concentrating fire on it, or doubling up the enemies line, so that the enemy ships block each other's line of fire.

Giving chase When the enemy is in a state of disorganization, to achieve total success, it is sometimes necessary that the line of battle be dissolved in order to pursue the enemy. Each captain should pair up with another captain and pick an enemy ship to chase. It is important that each pair stays together to provide backup. Each pair should communicate with the commander of the line so that enemy ships are not allowed to escape, and the line can reform if the enemy rallies.

Over all, the most important way to achieve success with the line of battle is to practice. Practice by yourself (hard I know), practice with your friends, and practice with NPC’s you may encounter. And practice right. Remember, practice makes permanent.


How to use Speed, Maneuver, Skills and trickery to board a target that outguns you.

NPC hunting[]

There are several reason you might want to hunt at npc ships on the open sea:

  • You want to level fast.
  • You want to gain Reputation
  • You want to hijack a ship of a certain level.
  • You seek out for loot.

The table below lists npc areas by faction and level.

Region Faction Lowest Ship Level Highest Ship Level Hotspots
Louisiana (Region) Samedien 17 28
Mexico (Region) Mithridati 16 30
New Spain (Region) Ladrones 5 5
New Spain (Region) Cortez 6 8
Yucatan (Region) Cortez 19 26
Florida (Region) Swampcat 6 12