Red Dead Online tips and tricks

Joseph Yaden

Though much of Red Dead Redemption 2’s player base has been infatuated with its single-player component, a huge portion of its audience has stuck around for Red Dead Online — the multiplayer adventure.

In it, players can complete jobs, hunt, play poker, become bounty hunters, and live their best life, all while playing with others in a huge world. It’s very similar to the single-player mode, but with an ever-changing list of things to do. You can play cooperatively or competitively with other players around the world, as you complete missions that grant you XP and cash to spend on your character.

In many ways, Red Dead Online has a lot in common with Grand Theft Auto Online, though you won’t be stealing any cars. Things can get complicated quite quickly and can almost feel overwhelming when deciding what to do in RDO, and how to rise through the ranks effectively.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks that will help get you started on your journey to become the most rootin’ tootin’ cowboy or cowgirl in the West.

Further reading

Character creator

As soon as you start RDO, you’ll need to create a character — but before you do, there are a couple things you should know. For starters, you only get one free character redesign, so if you end up not liking your initial creation, be careful when making the subsequent adjustments. If you do want to redesign your character, you can do so from the options menu by pressing left on the D-pad, followed by Online Options and Change Appearance. You can also make certain changes from a barber.

The other thing to know is that you are unable to change your gender after you’ve initially created your character, so be absolutely sure when making your selection. It’s unclear if this will be changed in a future update.

Etiquette

As you ride through all the little towns, completing jobs and earning XP, you’ll come across real-life players — many of which are friendly. But you’ll also run across those who like to give others grief, with plans to hogtie you to the train tracks. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to be friendly with everyone you encounter, if possible.

Sure, it’s kind of fun to overtake someone’s mission, but we advise you to take it easy and be nice to others. In fact, if you work together with the people you encounter, you’ll earn more cash and XP than you would from taking them out.

If you do run across someone who keeps killing you, you can either press charges, parley, or retaliate. Pressing charges will increase the player’s bounty, making them more likely to be hunted by others. If you parley, it will prevent both players from being hostile toward each other for a total of 10 minutes. Or if you’d like to retaliate, you’re more than welcome to introduce them to your revolver.

However you decide to interact with other players, be aware that your actions can impact the experiences of those around you. We generally advise to not bother people if they aren’t bothering you.

Things to do

When you first start out, you might become overwhelmed with things to do in RDO. With it being a huge open-world game, you can get by with simply riding around the towns and stumbling upon little experiences. Or you can take a much more active approach by becoming a bounty hunter, with tons of options in between.

If you do decide to take a goal-oriented approach, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of things to do in RDO. Below is a list of things you might want to try:

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Completing missions
  • Taking on one of the roles (Bounty Hunter, Trader, Collector, and Moonshiner)
  • Doing jobs for strangers
  • Grabbing a drink with friends at a saloon
  • Shopping
  • Competing against other players in PvP mode
  • Participating in a Free Roam Event
  • Earning money

The main things you’ll likely gravitate toward — aside from simply exploring — are the story missions. These are displayed by a character’s initials surrounded by a yellow marker on the map, similar to the single-player mode. Here, you’ll come across linear story missions that offer a variety of objectives. You’ll be able to complete them with friends, so make sure you go in with a group for maximum efficiency.

As you play, you’ll want to take on at least one of the roles, which have different rewards and goals in and of themselves. Those roles are detailed below.

Roles

Rockstar added Roles later on in the life cycle of RDO. These serve somewhat as factions, giving you different goals and missions depending on which one you choose. These Roles give you many opportunities to earn XP, loot, and cash, so we recommend selecting at least one of them. The four Roles are as follows:

  • Collector – As a Collector, your job is … well … to collect things. After partnering up with Madam Nazar, a traveling fortune teller, you gain the ability to find various sets of items. These include rare coins, jewelry, arrowheads, or even certain flowers.
  • Bounty Hunter – Bounty Hunters have the most action-packed job of the four, with the goal of seeking out wrongdoers for a reward. Certain bounties are more difficult to take out than others, with some missions forcing you to blast through waves on enemies to get to your target.
  • Trader – Being a Trader is a great way to earn money. With this Role, your job is to seek out animal skins and resources and deliver them to the butcher. As you deliver more resources, you’ll gain access to a wider array of goods to craft, as well as a hefty chunk of change.
  • Moonshiner – The newest Role, Moonshiner, has you running an underground business selling moonshine to customers. You’ll need to gather the proper ingredients to effectively create the moonshine, but once you do, you’ll be raking in cash. This Role also features a slew of upgrades, like the ability to have a bar, dance floor, and other enhancements to keep the customers happy.

It’s highly recommended to participate in at least one of the Roles, since they’re a great source of XP and cash and are usually fun. You don’t have to devote yourself to just one of them, either. As long as you complete the startup missions — which require you to perform some sort of preliminary task to begin — you can complete tasks that pertain to that Role.

Fastest way to level up

Not only does leveling up give you access to a laundry list of new features like weapons, clothing, and Ability Cards, but it’s a good indication of skill level when playing with others. Leveling up to rank 50 will also net you a trophy, so you pretty much have no choice but to grind, right?

As you start to get used to the gameplay loop, you’ll notice the game doesn’t reward you with as much XP as you might expect. However, there are a few methods you can use to maximize your XP earnings. They are as follows:

  • Finishing sets as a Collector
  • Completing story missions
  • Dominating in PvP

By far, the most consistent and easy way to earn XP is by finding items as a Collector. Each item you collect nets you anywhere from 100 to 300 XP, and when you finish a set, you get a bonus of around 1,500 XP. To find the sets, you can purchase maps from Madam Nazar. However, we recommend to use the handy interactive map at JeanRopke, which allows you to plan a route to find items. Keep in mind, the locations of items change every 24 hours. In addition, don’t sell anything to Nazar unless you have a complete set. You’ll earn bonus XP when completing sets, and there are numerous Challenges tied to selling sets.

You’ll also find that finishing story missions is a decent source of XP, especially when you combine that with getting kills. If you play your cards right, you can gain an additional 100 XP for your kills, plus around 300-500 XP for beating the mission itself. It’s not as fast as using the Collector method, but it’s certainly more fun. Plus, you’ll work toward various combat-related Challenges.

If you’re really good in PvP, playing the various competitive modes can be an enormous source of XP. But since this is skill-dependent, you’ll likely find the other methods to be more useful. If you’re up to the challenge, you can rack up 300-500 XP for winning the match, plus the additional XP for each kill, along with progress towards Challenges.

Earning money

You won’t get far in RDO without spending money. At first, you’ll find that earning money can be quite difficult, but once you start mastering the Roles, cash should come easy. One of the most effective ways of earning money is to sell Madam Nazar your sets, as part of the Collector Role. After selling a handful of sets, you can easily walk away with a few thousand dollars.

Another good way of earning money is to complete story missions. You don’t earn as much as you would for selling as a Collector, but it’s certainly a more fun method. You can earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 per mission. Obviously, the more time-intensive missions will net you a bit more.

You can also get quite a bit from hunting and selling. If you combine hunting and selling with the Trader Role, you’ll gain additional XP from Role Challenges. A great place to hunt is in the bayou area, where you’ll find various water life like alligators and fish.

Much of the things you’ll want to buy can be pretty expensive, so try not to blow all your money when you first start. Some of the better weapons range from $300 to $500, which you’ll most definitely want after playing for a while. In PvP, having better weapons makes a huge difference.

Combat

When you do jump into PvP modes, you’ll probably start off getting slaughtered by the enemy players. The combat in RDO is tricky to figure out since it doesn’t play like most competitive games you might be used to. Whether you play in first-person or third-person, you’ll want to customize the control settings to you liking. We found that turning up the sensitivity is useful in this regard.

The other thing to take into consideration is the game’s lock-on mechanic. If you’re into competitive shooters, you’re probably not used to being able to lock on to your enemies, and it might actually trip you up when trying to line up a shot. By default, the game will usually lock on to the chest area of an enemy, which usually doesn’t do the job if you take the shot. Instead, it’s recommended to aim toward the head every time. Get in the habit of aiming at an enemy and then moving the reticle up. If you practice this, it becomes a snappy process, but one that takes some getting used to.

Which weapons you use will also play a large role in how well you perform. The weapons you acquire early on don’t do as much damage as you’d hope, but we’ve found success in using dual-wield revolvers, even at a lower level. If you purchase the off-hand holster, you’ll be able to dual wield your handguns. We recommend the Schofield Revolver or the Lowry for maximum effectiveness.

Aside from aiming and shooting, you’ll want to practice moving, getting behind cover, and diving on the ground to avoid getting shot. This is something many players overlook when first starting out, leading to unnecessary deaths.

Don’t forget about story missions

It can be easy to get caught up in doing literally anything else, but story missions are a great source of cash and XP and offer an excellent way to complete Challenges. Plus they feature superb narratives that are on par with the single-player mode — or in some cases, better. These can be found around the map, as indicated by initials in a yellow highlighted spot.

Sometimes you’ll go a little while without a new story mission. If this happens, simply replay an old story mission or participate in a PvP match and when you spawn back into free roam, a new mission will usually be ready to go. You can replay missions from the options screen — all of which have different rankings you can earn by completing mission-specific challenges, just like in single player.

These missions can all be played with other players, as well. You can matchmake before a mission, with up to three other players. Keep in mind, you can only matchmake with those who have at least completed the story up to that point.

Start a posse and play with friends

Speaking of playing with friends, we recommend to start a posse to play with others. The Wild West is a dangerous place, full of deadly creatures, and even deadlier players that are out to get you. You can set up a posse in which to complete missions, complete Role-related tasks, or anything else you’d like to do.

There are two types of posses you can participate in:

  • Temporary Posse – This is a posse type that will last for the duration of the play session. Once the leader disbands or logs off, the posse will be deleted. You can have up to three other players in a Temporary Posse.
  • Persistent Posse – With a Persistent Posse, you get a few extra perks, but it’ll cost you. For $200, you can name your posse and have up to seven players in it total, and it’ll be saved even after the leader logs off.

You can invite players to your posse from the menu by pressing left on the D-pad. From here, anyone who isn’t already in a posse can be invited. These posse members can accompany you on your missions. You’ll notice a tremendous difference in the speed at which you complete missions when you have a full posse. If you don’t have a consistent group to play with, don’t worry. We found that inviting random players in your server is still effective. If you go through and invite everyone, you’ll probably get at least one or two players to join your posse. Who knows, you might even become friends with the random players you invite.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is that you’ll likely get fewer kills when you have posse members with you. When playing with others, your teammates might “take” your kills, which is worth considering when deciding whether or not to go solo. However, you’ll complete the mission a lot quicker with teammates, so it’ll depend on the mission if it’s worth it to go solo or not. Either way, exploring the open world with a posse is a lot safer than the alternative.

Complete awards

One of the most overlooked portions of RDO is its Awards, which provide you with various challenges to overcome. Completing them can net you lots of XP, so we recommend that you take a look at them when you first start, so you can keep them in the back of your mind as you play.

Many of them are tasks you’ll complete naturally, like getting a certain number of kills, traveling a specific amount, or selling items to the stores. There are more than 400 Awards, covering nearly everything.

Not only do you get mounds of XP for finishing Awards, but completing them also nets you a variety of nifty belt buckles, which serve as a trophy to show off your accomplishments. Some Awards are easier than others, so be sure to look at the list and pick the ones that adhere to your play style the most.

Come prepared with provisions

There’s not much worse than being stranded out in the wilderness without the supplies you need to advance. Whether you’re in a shootout and need to heal or you’re trying to run away from the predators of the night, you’ll need to have the necessary provisions to keep you safe.

Provisions are anything that can be consumed, like food, tobacco, or liquor. These have effects on your player’s health and can be purchased from general stores, found throughout the world, or bought from the catalog on your person. Keep in mind, if you buy from your personal catalog, you’ll have to pick your items up from the post office. Always make a habit of picking up provisions when you pass through town.

Keep your horse safe

As you journey to become the best cowboy or cowgirl in the West, your horse can be badly injured, or worse, killed. This can happen if you misjudge the height of a fence, or if you fall off a cliff. With most small injuries, you can simply heal your horse with a piece of food. However, your horse can be critically injured to the point of having to use a tonic to revive it.

Luckily, your horse cannot permanently die like in the single-player mode. If you don’t revive your horse with a tonic, you’ll have to pay a fee before being able to ride it again. Other players can also injure your horse, but they’re charged a vet fee if they do.

It’s a good idea to have a backup horse in your stable, just in case your main one becomes unusable. You’ll need to buy extra space in your stable for each additional horse, which does become expensive. Take good care of your horse and always be aware of its health and stamina meters. You’ll want to grab some horse food like carrots or apples from the store when you pick up food for your character.

You can fast travel

Luckily, you don’t have to ride your horse everywhere you go in RDO. There are several small cities around the map that you can fast travel to, as noted by a travel post on the map.

You can only travel from post to post, which can be a pain if you’re out in the wilderness. Note that if your horse is carrying any pelts or carcasses, they will disappear if you fast travel. Once you reach level 65, you can place a fast travel point at your camp to allow you to travel to any point on the map.

It’s also good to know that fast traveling costs money, with amounts that vary depending on the proximity of your destination. Be ready to pay around $8-$10 if your destination is on the opposite side of the map.

Try out PvP

Once you feel comfortable enough, you should give PvP a try. It’s a little intimidating, but if you can master it, you’ll find it to be one of the best ways to earn XP and cash. There are lots of different game modes, ranging from traditional deathmatch to a mode that resembles battle royale, and even horse racing.

It’s OK if you don’t click with every game mode. Some of them are more difficult than others — try to find a few you like and keep playing them until you get better at them. The one thing you should focus on at first is making sure you understand the game mode you’re playing. Some of them, like Shootout, are self-explanatory, but others, like Name Your Weapon, are more complicated. Many players simply run around and get kills, which works sometimes, but this can open up your team to lose the upper hand when ignoring the objective.

Whichever modes you play, we highly recommend to clean your weapons and refill your ammo in the pre-game lobby. After you play a few matches, you’ll have enough money to do this consistently.

Equip the right Ability Cards

As you rank up, you’ll unlock Ability Cards, which serve as perks that enhance your character. Most of them are minimal improvements, but after you start stacking and upgrading them, you’ll notice a difference. It’s important to not overlook these Ability Cards because they do make a huge impact on performance, especially when playing PvP.

Depending on what you’re doing, you should consider using Ability Cards that enhance your Dead Eye. There are a ton of cards that fall into this category, but we recommend you at least stick with Paint It Black. This card is available right from the start and allows all your shots to land while in Dead Eye mode, unless the enemy is behind cover. Upgrading it will deplete less Dead Eye, allowing you to preserve it and use it more often.

Another good one to use is Slow and Steady, which makes you take less damage and even survive some headshots. Take a look at each card and make sure they correspond to your play style. For example, if you’re playing a horse race, it doesn’t make sense to stack up on Dead Eye cards. There are lots of cards that don’t solely focus on shooting.

Daily Challenges

Each day you log on, you’ll have new Challenges to go through, all of which will reward you with XP (and some earn you cash). To check them, press left on the D-pad and go to Daily Challenges. Depending on your play style, you might not want to complete all of the Challenges, but at the very least, you should work on the easier ones. Doing so will continue your streak, and if you complete seven in a row, you’ll get an XP bonus.

The Challenges are mostly easy tasks, like traveling a certain distance or picking a specific flower. If you’re participating in one of the four Roles, you can also tab over to Role-specific Challenges, which you’ll definitely want to complete. These should come easy if you work on rising through the ranks of your Roles, which you should be doing anyway.

The main point is to always be aware of what the Daily Challenges are, so you don’t miss out on easy XP and cash. If you stack this with some of the other XP farming methods above, you’ll rank up quickly.

You can manage your character from the RDR2: Companion app

A little-known fact is that you can manage your character from the RDR2: Companion app, a free download for iOS and Android. You can do a lot from the app, like make purchases from the catalog, view the latest updates, and check on your progress, like your time spent playing. You can even manage your single-player progress from here, so if you can’t get enough RDO or RDR2, the app might be worth your time.