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Sea of Thieves skeleton types: Green, Gold and Ancient Skeletons, and Skeleton Captains and how to defeat them explained

Everything you need to know about your undead foes.

Sea of Thieves' skeleton types come in all sorts of different flavours as you roam the Sea of Thieves, but it's extremely handy to know in advance how to deal with each variety whenever they decide to rise from their subterranean slumber and interrupt your adventures.

A few skeleton types, such as Choral Skeletons, are specific to certain Tall Tales, but most can be encountered anywhere in the world at any time. Some of these are special, and others are very rare - dropping premium currency.

There are even skeletons that pilot deadly Skeleton Galleons and Sloops out in the world, emerging from the depths to terrorise unsuspecting crews. These appear both as random encounters and as part of Sea of Thieves' extremely challenging Skeleton Fleet events, which can be initiated by sailing below a Skeleton Fleet cloud.

These include:

On this page, we'll focus on the skeletons you'll encounter on land, detailing each variety, their skeleton weaknesses, and anything else worth knowing about how to defeat skeletons out in the wild.

Not mentioned on this page are Skeleton Lords - special boss-like opponents that primarily feature during Tall Tales chapters. Each has advanced attacks, including the ability to bury underground and generate a huge knock-back wave.

How to defeat regular skeletons

The skeleton variants you'll encounter most frequently on your travels are your standard boney white types. Whether nude or dressed in matching crew colours as part of an Order of Souls quest, these are usually trivially easy to defeat, simply requiring a couple of sword slashes or a shot or two from your favourite firearm. If you want to get really fancy, you can lob a Blunder Bomb or Fire Bomb their way to finish them off in record time, but you're best off saving those limited resources for the tougher skeleton variants.

Regular skeletons will either carry a sword, pistol, blunderbuss, sniper, or be unarmed, ready to unleash a volley of deadly scratches with their bony fingers. Whichever you face, though, it's simply a matter of strafing around to the side or rear in order to pummel them with the attack of your choice. And then pummel them again if they manage to eat a health-restoring banana.

The only complication you're likely to encounter here comes when you find yourself in a large group of skeletons armed with ranged weapons. These can aim surprisingly accurately for the undead, and can finish you off in record time if you're not careful. Always focus on defeating skeletons with ranged weapons first - starting with sniper variants - and keep moving constantly to reduce the chances of being hit. Skeletons also can't shoot through other skeletons so try and keep one in between you and ranged variants where possible.

How to defeat gunpowder skeletons

Gunpowder skeletons can pop out of the earth at a moment's notice and can quickly ruin your plans. As soon as they're in range, around ten paces, they'll light the five-second fuse on the gunpowder barrel in their arms and prepare to detonate. If you're caught in the enormous blast, you'll be one-shotted to the Ferry of the Damned if a crew member can't revive you in time, so it pays to be stay vigilant for these explosive monstrosities.

If one catches you by surprise, run! Drop anything you're carrying to increase your speed and get out of range as quickly as possible. Ideally, you'll want to head to high ground or out to deep water where they can't follow - at which point, you can about-face to deal with them from afar. Unfortunately, however, gunpowder skeletons are fast and can easily keep pace if you pause even for a second. As such, most of the time, your goal will be to get far enough away that you'll only catch the perimeter of their detonation and sustain minor damage.

Should you manage to shake them off, however, you have a choice in how to deal with them. In some instances, shooting their barrel directly is preferable, especially if they're surrounded by other pesky skeletons, as these will be obliterated in the blast. Alternatively, you can shoot their bony bodies and, if you manage to destroy the skeleton without detonating the barrel, you'll have a free barrel to take on your travels! Either way, a sniper rifle is your best friend here, as it means you can be absolutely certain you're out of blast range.

How to defeat Ashen skeletons

Venture into the formidable Devil's Roar and you'll encounter a special regular skeleton variant - both out in the world and during the Molten Sands Fortress raid - with a special fiery hue. These are functionally identical to standard skeletons but do have a minor resistance to fire attacks. As with any skeleton type in the Devil's Roar, however, guide them above an active geyser whenever possible, as a single blast will turn them instantly to dust.

How to defeat Gold skeletons

Sea of Thieves features three special skeleton types - black Shadow Skeletons, green Plant Skeletons, and Gold Skeletons - that, as well as wielding swords and firearms like their standard brethren, feature specific strengths and weaknesses. These predominantly only appear during Order of Souls quests, but that doesn't mean you won't stumble across them out in the wild.

On land, gold skeletons' clanking metallic bodies drastically reduce the damage that can be dealt to them, meaning sword attacks are largely pointless. Instead, you should use firearms, explosive barrels, Fire Bombs, or Blunder Bombs to quickly scatter their metal encrusted bones to the wind. Blasting them with cannonballs is also an effective strategy.

You can make fights against gold skeletons a little easier by luring them into water, whether that be a pond or the shallow water around an island - and you can even douse them with a bucket of water as a last resort. Once wet, gold skeletons will appear tarnished and begin to move incredibly slowly, making them a far easier target.

How to defeat Green 'Plant' skeletons

Plant Skeletons are essentially the reverse of gold skeletons. Out of the water, they're relatively weak and you'll find cutlasses most effective against them. Be careful, however; never let them loiter in water as they'll continue to regenerate their health while wet.

How to defeat Black 'Shadow' skeletons

Black Shadow Skeletons can be particularly troublesome foes if encountered at the wrong time. During the day, they function as any other skeleton and can be defeated with a couple of well-aimed attacks. When the night falls, however, they're entirely invulnerable to your violent advances unless you can get them into light.

The easiest way to do this is with the lantern in your inventory; if you're in a crew with multiple players, get one member to constantly hold their lighted lantern aloft, running around to bring shadows skeletons back into this realm of existence - they'll hiss and recoil, losing their transparent status if successful, giving attacking players the chance to get in a few shots before the shadow skeletons grow invulnerable again. Solo, you'll need to do this yourself, hoisting lantern then switching it out for a sword or firearm once shadow skeletons are vulnerable.

How to defeat Shadows of Fate Shadow skeletons

Shadows of Fate skeletons are similar to regular shadow skeletons except that they can only be made vulnerable by illuminating them with a lantern corresponding to their colour - either blue, green, pink, purple, red, or white. Lantern colours can only be obtained by dying in one of six specific ways and then stealing the resulting flame from the giant Flame of Fate lantern on the Ferry of the Damned once appropriately deceased:

  • To acquire the blue lantern, get killed by a shark or megalodon.
  • To acquire the green lantern, get killed by a skeleton.
  • To acquire the pink lantern, get killed by another player.
  • To acquire the purple lantern, get killed by a poisonous snake.
  • To acquire the red lantern, get killed by fire, lava, or falling volcano rocks.
  • To acquire the white lantern, get killed by lightning in a storm.

That might sound like a huge pain but, thankfully, you'll almost never encounter Shadows of Fate outside of the Fort of the Damned. As part of the ceremony required to initiate the raid, you'll need to light six statues using all six flame colours, and these will remain lit throughout the event, meaning you can run up and grab the correct flame colour you need as soon as the next Shadows of Fate wave spawns.

To date, only red and green Shadows of Fate type have appeared outside the Fort of the Damned, and the flames required to defeat both are relatively easy to acquire during battle.

How to defeat Skeleton Captains

Skeleton Captains - which you'll instantly recognise by their fancy hats - are extra-tough enemies that are most frequently found as part of Order of Souls voyages, although it's possible to encounter them randomly in the wild too. They can take the form of regular white, black, green, or gold skeletons, and can carry a sword, pistol, or blunderbuss.

These can be defeated as per their standard variants, but have considerably more health and will regularly munch health-restoring bananas. Emergent Skeletons are notable for the fact they drop Skeleton's Orders map voyages which can lead to treasures including a coveted Ritual Skull for activating the Fort of the Damned.

The first season has arrived! Learn about all Season 1 Battle Pass rewards and everything else added in the Sea of Thieves patch notes. New to the game? Learn what to do in Sea of Thieves and take take part in the Maiden Voyage tutorial, which teaches you the essentials of sailing and ship battles. It's also useful for beginners to know how to survive fights with skeletons and the kraken. Elsewhere we have advice on how to get easy gold and doubloons, complete skeleton forts and The Shroudbreaker, take part in fishing in Sea of Thieves and Sea of Thieves island maps.

What are Ashen Guardians and Ashen Key Masters?

Ashen Guardians and Ashen Key Masters are special Captain variants that can spawn on any island (and sometimes during active Skeleton Forts) and are identified by the red mist and fiery embers that surround them. Once defeated, Ashen Guardians and Key Masters will, alongside a skull, drop maps guiding players to an Ashen Chest or Ashen Key respectively.

Unopened Ashen Chests can be sold to Duke at any outpost tavern for 5 doubloons, but a chest can be opened for three pieces of additional treasure if you have an Ashen Key. Notably, at least one of these treasures will be an Ashen Tome; collecting all items in an Ashen Tome set enables players to unlock different pieces of the Ashen Dragon Ship Set.

Cover image for YouTube videoHow to assault a Fort in Sea of Thieves

What are Ancient Skeletons and how do you find them?

Unlike other skeletons, the arrival of an Ancient Skeleton is a moment to be celebrated! These extremely rare sack-carrying undead souls burst from the ground and begin to run hither and tither with a jaunty musical accompaniment. They'll vanish again around 15 seconds later, but if you manage to defeat it before it does, you'll be awarded with a stash of Ancients Coins to spend within Sea of Thieves' premium Pirate Emporium store. In fact, with the highest amount currently reported to be around 500 Ancient Coins, you could even procure yourself a pet.

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Matt Wales

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Matt Wales is a writer and gambolling summer child who won't even pretend to live a busily impressive life of dynamic go-getting for the purposes of this bio. He is the sole and founding member of the Birdo for President of Everything Society.