What is it?

A fort in sea of thieves is one of the 3 global events that can occur in game, the other two being an armada and a kraken. Only 1 of these 3 events can be active at any given time. Meaning, if you see a skull cloud in the sky, a kraken won’t spawn, nor will you sail into an armada of ships.

Where are they?

If a fort is randomly chosen to be the global event, one fort island will be activated and signalled with a huge skull in the sky that can be seen around the entire map. There are 3 possible islands in Shores of Plenty, The Wilds and The Ancient Isles as well as 1 within the Devil’s Roar, presumably if any new areas are added they’ll also get a fort added, as this is what happened with the Devil’s Roar.

Active fort vs. Inactive fort

An active fort means that the island will be manned with normal skeleton guards and has spawned loot within the locked vault. Once a crew lands on the fort, the first wave of skeletons will spawn. These skeletons can be normal, golden, floral or ghost types and need to be dealt with accordingly.

An inactive fort is empty in terms of NPCs however, is a great place to stock up on gunpowder barrels and various supplies.

Approaching the fort

When you sail near an active fort, the skeletons guarding it will fire from the cannon towers towards your ship. They’re good shots and will hit your ship, generally more often than not and from a greater distance than you think is possible.

This is where you need to decide whether or not you’re going to kill the skeletons inside the cannon towers to prevent your ship from being bombarded with cannonballs or try to sail close enough to be out of their range. The bonus to leaving the cannoneer skeletons alive if your ship is in a safe spot, is that they’ll start shooting any ships that come towards the fort, acting as an early warning system for you.

From my experience, the manned cannon towers aren’t a deterrent to prevent people from coming towards an active fort, simply a method of letting you know that a ship is approaching via the sound of cannons being fired, which can be quite helpful.

How do you complete a fort?

Each fort will spawn anywhere from 10 to 15 waves before a final wave, containing a captain. Upon killing the captain, a key will drop where the captain stood and the huge skull cloud in the sky will disappear. Other pirates around the map will be able to see the skull disappear however, unless they’re close enough to the fort to see your ship, they won’t know if it’s been defeated or despawned.

If at any point during the Fort you have to AFK or engage in a battle, the fort itself won’t reset. It will continue from the wave that last person left on. This means that on occasion you might find yourself lucky enough to stumble across a fort that has only 1 wave remaining or is actually on the final captain wave. There is no way of knowing what wave the fort is on or how many there are left before the final wave.

The bounty music will spawn at the start of each wave and will be a different tone when the captain finally spawns. If you don’t get the music after you think you’ve completed the wave, look around for a rogue skeleton that’s either hidden or stuck somewhere. On the very rare occasion, you may find yourself unlucky enough to have a skeleton spawn in a place where you’re unable to access it. You can try to use a gunpowder barrel to explode it via AOE damage, use your eye of reach to snipe it through a small gap if it’s visible or swing at the wall and listen out for it taking damage. If none of that works, you can try to reset the wave itself, by having all of your crew die so that you’re all on the Ferry of the Damned at the same time however, this has been met with mixed results.

The Key

As previously mentioned, once the captain has been defeated, it’ll spawn a key where they stood. The key is a physical item within the game that can be picked up, it can also sink and be hidden if necessary.

From what I’ve read the key can be left hidden for a decent period of time. While I wasn’t able to find any recent information on despawn time of keys, I was able to find information from when forts used to be a 3 hourly event, which said that keys can be left on the ground for up to 2.5 hours. While I wouldn’t recommend this, you do get a decent amount of time before any loot disappears on land. Unfortunately, I can’t give a solid figure. If you know, leave a comment below!

Each skull key, can open any vault however, it’s important to note that only an active fort will have treasure. I’ve read that you’re able to use a key obtained from Fort A, to unlock Fort B, however never done this myself. The key is a one-time use, meaning that once the key is used to unlock a vault, it disappears and you’re unable to use it again, regardless of whether or not you found treasure inside the vault.

Unlocking the vault

Pick up the key and ensure that the area is secure. If it is, take it to the locked vault and press the control appropriate button to unlock the door. This will cause the door will move, revealing a small room, stacked with treasure. You and your crew will need to ferry the loot to your ship. Ideally, taking the most expensive items first, these are the stronghold skull, stronghold chest, crate of ancient bone dust and the stronghold gunpowder barrel. If you can’t remember all their names, just remember go for the items with bones on them.

Be careful with the Stronghold gunpowder barrel as this is three times stronger than a normal gunpowder barrel and can sink a ship very quickly, even a galleon if the crew isn’t on point. Even placing this on the crows nest of your ship is not safe. If you’ve got another crew approaching the fort or in battle with one, you might benefit from using the stronghold gunpowder barrel to sink the ship to ensure you’re able to collect the rest of the loot.

The vault will have a few other gunpowder barrels inside, so if you’re walking in with another crew be cautious about walking in first as they might set all the barrels off at the same time, killing you and taking off with the best loot themselves .

Then what?

Once all the loot has been ferried to your ship, keep an eye out in the sky for another skull cloud or a ship cloud. If you don’t see either of these, there is still a chance for a kraken to spawn. This can be quite stressful with a ship full of loot and even result in your ship being sunk if you’re unsure how to defeat a kraken.

The skull in the sky

You may have noticed that the skull in the sky changes eye colour every now and then. Having looked into this, and gotten confirmation from the developers, the change of colour has nothing to do with what’s happening at the skull fort and is purely aesthetic.


While alliances make forts easy and quick when you’ve got multiple crews completing the fort, it may also be unnecessary and unwanted by the original crew to have additional people on the island. It’s best to have your alliance flag up as you approach, announce that you’re offering an alliance via voice chat or typing it and willing to go elsewhere and do something else while they do the forts. Since doing this I’ve gotten a lot more gold than I otherwise would have.

I don’t need to fight a crew for a fort if they’re going to do the hard work for me, while I’m off fighting megalodons and completing missions.

Tips & Misc information

  • Skull forts can be soloed however many hands make light work. The more people who are attacking the skeleton waves at any given time, the faster the whole process is
  • The skull fort doesn’t change it’s difficulty. It doesn’t care if there is 1 person or 20, it’s the same amount of skeletons, same amount of waves and same amount of loot
  • When fighting waves, regardless of where they spawn, use the door of the fort or ramp inside the fort as a way to funnel the skeletons towards you. If you and at least 1 other crew mate are standing at the door, skeletons shouldn’t be able to pass through preventing you from getting overwhelmed and hopefully hitting more than 1 at any given time
  • Every now and then, and especially once the captain has been defeated, check to make sure there aren’t any ships approaching ready to poach your loot. The best place to do this, is on top of the fort itself as this gives you the best vantage point to see if anyone is coming towards you
  • If you see someone travelling towards you, grab the most expensive loot you can and either sail away with it on your ship or hide it on the island and return to it later
  • In doing normal forts, you can expect to get anywhere from 12k to 20k gold if not more
  • The Devil’s Roar fort spawns ashen loot doubling the totals
  • Each fort should have at least 2 bullet refills, one outside and another inside the fort on the upper levels. While you can take 2 guns it’s recommended that you take a sword and a gun of choice
  • Familiarise yourself with the barrels around you and make sure you know where the bananas are
  • Skeletons can spawn with gunpowder barrels during waves, and active forts spawn with them scattered around the place too. Be careful that you don’t set off a chain reaction by accidently hitting them
  • Got any other tips? Post them below!
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