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Red Dead Online beginner’s guide

Our best tips for Red Dead Redemption 2’s multiplayer mode

A player in Red Dead Online holds up a WWI-era trench clearing shotgun while wearing a dapper pork pie hat. Rockstar Games via Polygon

Red Dead Online is here, and it’s as huge and ambitious as Red Dead Redemption 2. It also requires learning some new things, even if you’ve invested dozens of hours into the campaign. In this guide, we’ll help you get started, give some detail that Red Dead Online doesn’t and offer some advice about the best things to do to get ahead.

It’s better together

In a game called Red Dead Online, you should play together. Others are already doing that, and a Posse of three or four will beat a lone wolf pretty much every time. (We speak from experience. We just wanted our wolf pelt, but those jerks stole it and killed us. A lot.)

If you want the kind of solitary bliss that Red Dead Redemption 2 can offer, single-player is your mode. It’s best to treat Red Dead Online as the multiplayer game that it is. And we’ll get into how you can do that below.

What you can do in Red Dead Online

What can’t you do? Just about everything you can do in regular offline Red Dead Redemption 2 is available in Red Dead Online. You can still hunt, get a haircut, hunt for treasure and play story missions. The main difference here is you’ll be doing this while inhabiting the same world as other players (some of whom really want to kill you just for fun).

There are plenty of missions, events, and distractions that are unique to Red Dead Online as well. Those include:

  • Story Missions. Story Missions appear on your map as the same yellow circles as in single-player Red Dead Redemption 2. These are larger, sometimes multi-part missions that fill out the narrative of Red Dead Online.
  • Free Roam Missions. These are the icons on your map that look like a stick figure hailing a cab. Free Roam Missions are the Red Dead Online equivalent of Stranger Missions. You’ll get a (relatively) simple task — sometimes with a timer for completing it — and a similarly small reward.
  • Free Roam Events. Free Roam Events are player-versus-player challenges that will pop up from time to time as you wander the world. (It’s in the name: You’re freely roaming, and an event that you can join begins.) They’re not location-based, though, so you’ll just get a notification in the top left of your screen and you can opt-in.
  • Race Series. You’ll spot these on your map as a checkered flag icon. In these horse races, you’ll pit your steed against others in three kinds of races: Lap Races (trips around a set path), Point-to-Point (from one location to another), and Open Races.
  • Showdown Series. Showdown Series appear on your map as icons with either two or three people on them, depending on the size of the teams involved (small teams are Showdown Series, and big teams are Showdown Series Large). These are the more traditional online game part of Red Dead Online, and they get their own section.

What you can’t do in Red Dead Online

Pause the game. Because it’s, you know, online.

Showdown Series events

Showdown Series events are team-based, competitive matches where you play with matchmade strangers, your Posse (more on Posses below) or some combination thereof.

At launch, there are several Showdown Series modes:

  • Hostile Territory. These matches are zone capture-style games. Your team has to capture areas of the map and defend them against the opposing team.
  • Make It Count. A last one standing, bow and arrow or throwing knives only, limited ammo match where the playing field is constantly shrinking. (It’s Red Dead Online Battle Royale.)
  • Most Wanted. Most Wanted works a lot like Shootout above, but the higher your score (kills), the more points someone gets for killing you.
  • Name Your Weapon. These matches work like Shootout or Most Wanted matches, but your score depends on the weapon you use — thrown weapon kills are worth more than shotgun kills, for example.
  • Shootout. This is a basic, one-versus-all shootout where the player with the highest kill count wins.
  • Team Shootout. Team Shootout is like Shootout, but it’s team-versus-team.

How Posses work

Posses are a way to join forces with other players and stay together. Posses always include a Posse Leader who sets up the Posse, but one kind of Posse is more, well, hardcore than the other.

There are two types:

  • Temporary Posses are free to set up, have a limit of four players and disappear when the Posse Leader quits. Think of them as a quick and easy way to get your friends together.
  • Persistent Posses cost you currency to create, max out at seven players, remain after the Posse Leader quits and are available again whenever the Posse Leader is online. Think of them as the kind of thing that serious players will create to customize their Posses, play against other Posses and even battle against each other with Posse Versus.

To create a Posse, press left on the D-pad and select Posse. In the menu that loads, press the Square/X button that corresponds to Form Posse. (The text in the lower right of your screen, not on the menu.) You can use the Player section of the same menu to add Posse Members.

You can also join an existing Posse from the Posse menu, provided that a Posse Leader in your world set the Privacy option to Open when they created theirs.

When you’re in a Posse, everybody who’s in your Posse follows you. If you choose a mission or talk to a Stranger who wants you to do something, your Posse will accompany you. If you just invited someone into your game world (with Invite to Session from the Free Roam > Players menu) but didn’t also set up a Posse, they’ll be left behind.

How Camps work

Solo players have a Player Camp, which is like a hybrid between the gang’s Camp in the Red Dead Redemption 2 campaign than the ad hoc Camp you can create in the wilderness during the campaign. If you’re in a Posse, you’ll have a Posse Camp.

Camps offer a safe place to rest — as long as you find and raise the white flag — access to your Wardrobe, a place to craft and cook — and, after upgrading, even fast travel.

If you buy certain items like ammunition from the Handheld Catalog (it’s in your Weapon Wheel or you can press and hold left on the D-pad), they’ll appear in a Delivery Box in your Camp. (You can also pick up those deliveries up at a Post Office.)

It’s worth noting that other items like weapons appear in your inventory or saddlebags instead of being routed through the mail.

Honor in Red Dead Online

Just like in Red Dead Redemption 2, your actions will affect your Honor in Red Dead Online. Some of these actions will be obvious — like whether or not to leave someone tied up on the train tracks — while others are more subtle (but still intuitive) — like bonding with your horse(s).

Honor can affect the missions you’re asked to complete. If you’ve maintained a high Honor, you’ll get more white hat missions like protecting wagons, but if you trend toward the outlaw end of the spectrum, you’ll get missions like breaking fellow outlaws out of jail.

The best way to make money

After you’ve completed the intro mission, hit left on the D-pad to open up the Free Roam menu. Scroll down to Quick Join and select Story Mission On-Call. You are welcome to do this with our without friends in your Posse (aka Fireteam). These missions seem to cap out at four, so a full, four-person Posse won’t be able to join.

We’ve expanded this process, which allows you to join others and play story missions, in our guide to making money in Red Dead Online, and you get more detail there. The upshot: You’ll earn good money for helping others, but there are limits.

Also, don’t think getting rich is going to get you everything you want — almost all of the items in the Handheld Catalog are gated behind your level. And to earn levels, you’ll need XP.

The best way to earn XP

The short answer here is the same as above: Keep doing Story Missions and making yourself available to matchmake into others’ Story Missions. You might not make a ton of money every time, but that XP will add up.

Parley and Feuds

The world of Red Dead lends itself to a certain degree of lawlessness. You’re going to get shot for no apparent reason. You’ll get ridden down in the street. It happens.

Parley mode lasts 10 minutes. Rockstar Games via Polygon

But if it keeps happening, there’s a system in place to help you work it out and bring a little law to the lawlessness. If you and another player end up in a cycle of murder and revenge (or murder and spite), you’ll trigger one of two options.

  • Parley. When one player triggers this mode, you’ll end up face-to-face with your foe, but you won’t be able to use your weapons. You’re left with 10 minutes to talk (parley) through your problems with your mouthwords instead of your gunbullets.
  • Feud. Both players have to opt in to Feuds. If both players accept, they’re thrown into a three-minute, player-versus-player shootout. Whoever gets the highest kill count wins.

The option to Parley or Feud appears after you’ve been killed by someone four times. After either has concluded, you and your tormentor (or the person you’re tormenting and you) can go right back to killing one another. But you’ll get the Parley and Feud options sooner.

Ability Cards

Red Dead Online Paint It Black Ability Card Rockstar Games via Polygon

Red Dead Online Ability Cards grant you, well, abilities — effects, technically. Put a card in a slot, and you’ll gain that effect.

You can purchase Ability Cards from the Abilities menu (which is in the main menu). You’ll get your first Ability Card for free during the introductory mission, and the next couple cost $50 each from within the menu. You can equip (or unequip) them from this menu, too.

The first Ability Card slot you unlock is for (and called) Dead Eye. It’s active, meaning that you have to invoke Dead Eye to use it. (Later, you’ll unlock slots for passive Ability Cards, whose effects are always active.)

Unlike the campaign, Dead Eye doesn’t slow down time in Red Dead Online (because this is game is online and that wouldn’t work). Instead, you get something like the Dead Eye you’re probably used to, but with a twist. For example:

  • The Paint It Black Ability Card lets you paint targets while in Dead Eye.
  • The Focus Fire I Ability Card lets you and your team members “deal a little more damage” while using Dead Eye.
  • The A Moment to Recuperate Ability Card slowly regenerates your health when using Dead Eye.

You an also level up ability cards as you gain XP. (You can see the XP you’ve gained when you’re hovering over the card in the Ability Cards menu.) Every card has three levels (or tiers), and each enhances the ability.

You’ll unlock more slots for cards at Rank 10 (1st Passive), 20 (2nd Passive) and 40 (3rd Passive). You’ll also unlock more Ability Cards as you rank up. You can purchase new Dead Eye Ability Cards at Ranks 24, 44 and 50, for example.


It feels like basically everything you do in Red Dead Online will eventually lead to an Award. Picking plants earns you an Award. Eating plants earns you an Award. Shooting people earns you an Award. And awards become Belt Buckles (which are cosmetic, but oh-so fancy).

Horse Insurance

You’ll have to buy Horse Insurance during the introductory mission. Technically, insurance lets your horse “automatically recover over time if it’s critically injured.” Practically, the horse you buy it for won’t die and disappear forever. It’ll heal in time.

If an uninsured horse you own “dies,” you have to pay to heal them at a stable. If you have insurance, there’s no fee.

It’s a great policy. But you have to purchase it for each horse, and the cost appears to be based on the horse’s quality. If you’ve got a really good horse, it’ll cost you a ton in gold bars.

Be patient

Keep in mind that Rockstar is launching Red Dead Online as a beta. That means things can and will go wrong. We’ve seen it happen, from connectivity problems to missing loot and XP from missions and even a disappearing minimap.

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