It’s surprisingly hard to get away with anything remotely illegal in Red Dead Redemption 2. It feels like there’s always someone waiting to tell the cops about anything they see. And that leads to Bounties being placed on you.
This guide will give an overview of how the Bounty system works, them move on to some things you can do to avoid getting in trouble and, failing that, how to avoid getting caught. And then we’ll talk about the other side of Bounties — collecting Bounties on other wrongdoers (you hypocrite).
The Bounty system
The Bounty system is basically just fines for the crimes you’ve committed (well, gotten caught committing). Bounties can range from $5 for unarmed assault to $15 per murder and continue (adding) up from there. You can pay off Bounties can at Post Offices.
Bounties are tracked by each state individually — the Bounty you have in Lemoyne doesn’t apply to New Hanover — but you can pay off your Bounty at a Post Office in any state.
While you have a Bounty (depending on how high it is), you might be chased by Bounty hunters. This doesn’t happen immediately, though, so you’re probably just going to be surprised by them when you least expect it a few hours — or even days — later.
Bounty isn’t the same as Wanted
Being chased by the law and having a Bounty are related, but separate, conditions. The short version is: being Wanted for a crime will earn you a Bounty, but having a Bounty doesn’t mean you’re Wanted.
When you commit a crime and it gets reported to the cops (a lot more on this in the next section), a red Wanted indicator will appear in the top right of your screen. This means the cops are actively looking for you. A red circle will appear on your map (and radar) to indicate where the cops are searching. This Wanted indicator is also a countdown clock — the red will drain out of it to the right as the cops loose interest in finding you. If you evade the law or get out of that circle without being chased, the Wanted condition will go away and the cops will go back to not caring about you.
At the same time you become Wanted, you’ll get a Bounty for the crime(s) you committed (depending on some conditions we discuss below). Since the cops tend to shoot at you while you’re Wanted and racking up a Bounty, it’s tempting to associate the two. But they’re actually distinct. Being Wanted means the cops are currently chasing you;. Having a Bounty means a crime has been associated with Arthur.
Interestingly enough, having a Bounty doesn’t seem to influence how lawmen interact with you — so long as you’re not currently Wanted. Even if you’ve got hundreds of dollars in Bounty on your head, you can walk down a city street and say “howdy” to every cop you pass.
Committing a large number of severe (expensive) crimes in a short period of time will put a city into lockdown. A locked down city means the shops are closed to you and any lawmen who see you will chase (shoot) you. A lockdown lasts for about six in-game hours.
Committing a crime and getting a Bounty
“Crime” is a pretty broad term in Red Dead Redemption 2. Everything from animal cruelty to accidentally knocking someone over to cold-blooded murder will get you noticed by the law and result in a Bounty. There are a few steps to getting noticed, though, and knowing them can help you avoid Bounties — or at least keep the Bounties affordable.
First, there has to be someone around. If there’s no one around to see you, is it really a crime? (It will still affect your Honor score and your conscience even if there’s no one else around, though.)
When there are people around, they will come to investigate the crime. At this point, they’re a white eye icon on your map and radar. Once they, with their 1899 layperson expertise, determine a crime has occurred, they’ll start running for the nearest law enforcement official and become a red eye icon. (If you, for instance, punched a horse right in front of them, they’ll skip the investigating step.)
If you stop the witness(es) before they get to a cop and intimidate them into not telling on you, you’re in the clear and can go back to whatever you were doing.
If they make it to a cop and snitch, things start to get tricky:
- If you were wearing your bandana over your face when you committed the crime, the police will start looking for an “Unknown Suspect” and a chunk of your map will turn red. This is the area the police are searching, and they will continue searching it until the timer — that red Wanted indicator in the top right of your screen — runs out. If you get out of that area or run out the clock without attracting the attention of law enforcement, you’re in the clear again. Doing something as simple as taking your bandana off is usually enough to throw the law off your scent.
- If the law spots you during their search for an unknown suspect, the crime — and the Bounty — will become associated with Arthur, and events will unfold like the bandanaless case below. You’ll be Wanted and have a Bounty. Doing things like committing more crime or forgetting to remove your bandana will usually tip them off.
- If you were not wearing your bandana, you’ll get the same red chunk of map, but the cops will be looking specifically for Arthur Morgan — you’ll be Wanted — and you’ll automatically get the Bounty associated with your crime. Any lawman that spots you in that red area will chase you, reset the Wanted clock, and recenter the red area on your location. And the chasing usually involves bullets.
If your crime wasn’t all that severe, you can usually surrender to the cops before the shooting starts. Keep your guns holstered and focus on the cops to find the surrender prompt. You’ll end up in jail for a little while, but it’s better than being shot — if you die, it’ll cost you a (larger) chunk of your money and any pelts you had on your horse.
Alternately, crossing a state line will stop the Wanted condition and your pursuing cops. You’ll still have a Bounty, but there will be fewer bullets coming your way.
Bounty Hunting: Collecting (someone else’s) Bounty
Instead of racking up your own Bounty, taking up Bounty Hunting is a good way to earn some (relatively) quick cash. There are 10 you can pick up in Red Dead Redemption 2 — three are available once you reach Chapter 2, two more during Chapter 5, and the remaining five aren’t available until the Epilogue.
The process of collecting a Bounty is pretty straightforward:
- Pick up a wanted poster at a Sheriff Station or Post Office.
- Ride to the area marked on your map and find your Bounty.
- Lasso and hogtie the bad guy (there are a few where you can shoot them instead).
- Deliver them back to the Sheriff.
- Collect your reward from the Sheriff.