Ocean Punk
aka: Pirate Punk


An Adventure-Friendly World, which, no matter how Technology Marches On, remains firmly rooted in the cultural and political sensibilities of the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men.

Many works of modern fantasy or speculative fiction are set in a mostly watery world (or a mostly watery part of the world where the rest isn't of much matter) with distant islands connected by trade routes, ships sailing back and forth, and mighty colonial nations vying for rulership of the oceans and seas. Also often called Pirate Punk, as the setting naturally lends itself (but is by no means obliged) to have many Pirates and buccaneers, whether they're wielding cutlasses on sailing ships or the aquatic equivalent of Humongous Mecha. May contain Organic Technology, and have a large focus on what happens under the waves as well as over. Fantastic elements based on old sailors' superstitions (mermaids, abandoned derelicts that often aren't so abandoned after all, giant sea monsters) also make a frequent appearance. Groups that are Born Under the Sail tend to be common.

This may also be a type of After the End setting, if the writers are trying to teach An Aesop about global warming. Or they just thought it would be cool to show a world where our mostly land-based culture and technology ends up being adapted for an existence on the ocean.

For a similar setting that trades the water for the skies, see Sky Pirate. And since Space Is an Ocean, you might have Space Pirates. Compare and Contrast its exact opposite Desert Punk. Not to be confused with seapunk.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece uses transponder snails instead of telephones, uses seashells called "dials" as weapons of mass destruction, and has heavy stylized architectures and a mythos that oozes old-timey pirate lore.
  • Tactical Roar: The titular Perpetual Storm (a super-hurricane that affects the entire Pan-Pacific territory, and has done so for fifty years by the time the show starts) makes aerial transportation impossible on that area, bringing about a resurrection of the naval age with modern and futuristic ships (the main characters are part of a private security company that mans an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer).

    Comic Books 

  • Waterworld is definitely the aesop version, created when runaway global warming floods the entire planet save for the tip of Mount Everest. Humans mostly inhabit "atolls", ramshackle floating villages built out of whatever junk and flotsam could be scavenged from the sea, but there are also Drifters who spend their entire lives sailing nomadically between villages on one-person boats, aquatic mutants with gills behind their ears, and the Smokers, feared pirates with access to the only remaining motor craft. It's also mentioned that things like food plants and soil have become rare and valuable luxuries.

  • Older Than Print example and assuredly the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier is The Odyssey most of the adventures in the early part are set on sea, concern sailors, winds, islands and the ocean is frequently described as a presence called "the wine dark sea".
  • Web Novel series Calenture takes place in a steampunk setting that somewhat resembles the Pacific Ocean.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea setting.
  • Settings like these may be in part inspired by the story of Noah and other 'great flood' stories from folklore and mythology.
  • The Robin Hobb Liveship Traders series
    • Except that the C plot (Malta) takes place almost entirely on land. Plot lines A (Althea) and B (Wintrow) certainly qualify, though.
  • The Scar by China Miéville features Armada, a floating city made of hundreds of ships all lashed together, patrolled by underwater police led a dolphin and pulled around by a colossal Sea Monster.
  • Tranquilium starts out overwhelmingly maritime, with the human population being concentrated on islands of various sizes. At the end, it becomes an extreme example of this trope as most of the world's known landmasses are submerged and the population moved to huge arks that travel in search for new lands.
  • The parts of John Birmingham's Without Warning that deal with the crew of the Aussie Rules.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series is set in the Pacific Ocean of an alternate Earth where that pesky asteroid never wiped out the dinosaurs so it qualifies. Since the main characters are the crew of a WWII era destroyer that ran afoul of a time-space rift it also has elements of Diesel Punk.
    • Throughout the series, we see many different types of ships, from junk-like fishing boats armed with ballistae to carrier-sized wooden Homes (several of which later undergo refits to become carriers), from East Indiaman-derived frigates and steam/sail hybrids to World War I and World War II-era ships (including a submarine). This series has as much Schizo Tech as it can fit, short of putting Frickin' Laser Beams or missiles on wooden ships.
    • Book 7 adds Grik-built ironclads, including Azuma-class cruisers (based on the design of the French-build Japanese ironclad Kotetsu) and Amagi-class battleships (large four-stacked versions of the CSS Virginia).
  • The second Pendragon novel, The Lost City of Faar, takes place on the territory of Cloral, which is covered entirely by water until the mountain of Faar is raised at the end. Cloral has generally advanced technology, including water guns that can blast through walls, plastic made from processed water, and water-based propulsion systems, with specialized floating cities called "habitats" housing residents.
  • Katya's World by Jonathon L Howard, set on a Water world colonized by Russians where everyone either lives in communities carved out of undersea mountain ranges or on platforms floating on the surface and set after a war with the mother world.
  • Dark Life: After the ocean has raised and washed away the Earth's oceanfront property, Determined Homesteaders in underwater farms have to battle pirates, a corrupt government, and in the case of some of the characters Fantastic Racism from being born with super-powers.
  • The planet Spatterjay in Neal Asher's The Skinner is mostly ocean with a relative handful of islands and atolls and it's technology, except for the Polity's outpost is mostly from the Age Of Sail except for the occasional example of Schizo Tech obtained from the Polity, mostly weaponry and radios although in this case the "sails" are alive and sentient. The closest thing to a government are the Old Captains who, thanks to an omnipresent virus are really old
  • Most of Wen Spencer's Deepest Blue takes place in the Sargasso, a pocket universe which is mostly water dotted with islands, some of which fly and is populated by several races, including humans all of whom are descended from spaceship crews that wound up stuck there.
  • A humorous example is Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben J. Winters, an Affectionate Parody of the Jane Austen book set in an England beset by hostile sea creatures.
  • Michael Crichton's Sphere occurs on its majority on a U.S. Navy Underwater Base at the bottom of the ocean, and there is a constant mention of how the extreme depths are a challenge for both man and machine (even something as simple as cooking gets a whole lot more complicated when done in a helium/oxygen environment).
  • Peter Watts Rifters Triogy which is about cyborgs working in the deep sea.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Crystal Maze replaced the Industrial Zone with the Ocean Zone in later seasons - a Titanic-style sunken ocean liner trapped within an air bubble on the ocean's floor.
  • Storm World is a juvenile SF series set on a world where the inhabitants (all sucked there through wormholes) are constantly at odds because of the scarcity of land, and above all fresh water.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • FASA Traveller module Rescue on Galatea. The main action takes place on the Ocean Planet Galatea.
  • Dungeons & Dragons module Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. One of the alternate worlds accessible from Lolth's Web was the Ocean Planet "The Great Ocean". The human inhabitants "sail the ocean in great catamarans to carry the trade of their vast mercantile empire from island city to island city."
    • The Crowded Sea in the Al Qadim campaign setting (a subsetting of the Forgotten Realms), explored in the Corsairs boxed set, serves this purpose.
    • The 3.5 sourcebooks Stormwrack is a supplement to help DMs create their own Ocean Punk setting more easily. It also expands upon the rules related to ocean travel.
    • One of the Ravenloft domains, Saragoss, is an Ocean Punk Crapsack World setting in which stranded vessels' crews fight over dwindling resources on a drifting mat of seaweed.
  • Rifts World Book 7: Rifts UnderseasPirates, Powered Armor-wearing dolphins, shapeshifting orcas, giant squid Eldritch Abominations with tentacles miles long, fish-headed mutants, magic singing, playable humpback whales, floating cities, extradimensional aquatic conquerors, and the U.S. Navy, among others. Actually pretty par for the course for Rifts.
    • They come back to the sea with Rifts Lemuria, with Biomantic armor made of wood, coral, barnicles, blood(among other things); merpeople; giant junk-collecting hermit crabs, stone aircraft, and Giant Enemy Vampire Crab-people literally from Davey Jones' Locker.
  • Owing to the fact that the Elemental Pole of Water is located there, this tends to be the theme of any Exalted campaign set in the West. Common hazards include: Cannibalistic demon pirates, water and air elementals, ornery storm deities, aquatic variants of The Fair Folk, Magitek Lost Technology battleships (some of which may be sentient), gigantic sharks, crazed Wyld mutants, various tribes of aquatic Beastmen and the Lunars who rule them, malevolent empires of the dead...In fact, according to the Sidereals splatbook, the Convention of Water is the single most overworked group of Sidereals in existence. Considering that the job of the Sidereals is to keep Creation from going to pieces, this should tell you a lot about the West.
  • 50 Fathoms is all about the swashbuckling piratey oceanpunk goodness.
  • In the RPG Blue Planet (by Biohazard Games, now printed by Capricious Games), a colony on the ocean planet of Poseidon has regained contact with Earth after the homeworld succumbed to a planet-wide blight, leading to the clash between the Mega-Corporations and the government of an Earth that is dying out, the Earth colonists that have had to adapt to the planet when contact was cut off, and the native lifeforms of the planet, with the resources of the planet (including a substance that allows for an increased ease in biological modification) on the line.
  • Bizarrely this trope plays out on Rocket Age's Mars of all places, which has seas of silt, pirates, whalers and merchants hopping from island to island.


    Video Games 
  • Skies of Arcadia is Pirate Punk and Sky Pirates with more emphasis on the former (at first). Characters travel between floating islands in flying 18th-century pirate ships (which later get upgraded to more modern-looking battleships). You play as a small band of pirates trying to take down the evil armada.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure is set on a cluster of islands where the main villains are robotic pirates.
  • The Aquanox series of futuristic After the End sub combat sims. Just think of it as "seaQuest DSV meets Crimson Skies"...
  • Submarine Titans, which is basically StarCraft IN UNDERWATER!
  • Sleeper Xbox title Blood Wake is like this. The story suggests there's plenty happening on the game world's mainland, but since the protagonist is part of a pirate group who base themselves on islands and make a living preying on nearby shipping channels, all their warfare (and gameplay) is naval.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which takes place during The Golden Age of Piracy and centers heavily on the Caribbean Sea, with civilization scattered across small islands of varying distances that have to be crossed by ships across waters filled with sharks, whales, dolphins and jellyfish, and features quite a bit of ship-to-ship combat.
  • Subnautica is pretty much Minecraft running on this trope, with the Player Character being the only living survivor of a Colony Ship that crashed in an Ocean World.
  • Tales of Berseria is looking like it will be set in an Ocean Punk world.
  • Submerged is set on the remnants of a metropolis, whose tallest building are now like an archipelago of small islands.
  • Mega Man Legends takes place in a world covered by endless water.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, Post-Scratch Earth turns into this once Betty Crocker takes over and Alterniaforms it into an ocean planet, the waters broken only by floating slums of prefab housing blocks where alien exiles eke out an existence and by Dirk's home on top of a ruined skyscraper poking above the waves.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Pirate Punk