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Things I Wish I Knew Before Playing Red Dead Redemption 2

todayJanuary 2, 2019 5921 1 4

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I haven’t really talked much about this on the podcast, but I’ve spent COUNTLESS hours on Red Dead Redemption 2. Way too many. I was kind of tempted to see if there was an hour count on the game but … I also don’t want to know. I’m not one for using a strategy guide so a lot of this time was just absolutely wasted.

Anyway the point of this is, I learned a lot of things much later which would have saved me some time and frustration. Thanks to my friends who provided LOTS of other ideas, I created this guide to help you avoid our problems. This isn’t a full fledged strategy guide. Just think of me as your Old West Auntie giving you some life advice.

This is a public service, y’all.

I’m going to try to avoid spoilers, but when I feel like it’s even remotely necessary I’ll hide text for optional viewing.


  • The clock that shows up on the pause menu shows time of day. you can also get this by pressing ↓ on the D-pad but if you have a bounty, pause menu is faster.
  • Log: Press ← to get the log to get access to your current tasks and challenges. (See below about the challenges.) 
  • Quickmap: Press and hold the pause button for 1 second to pull up the map instantly
  • Auto-pilot: while on a road with your destination marked, press and hold the touch pad/select button to enter cinematic mode. Make your horse start galloping and he will continue until you reach your destination. On the way the horse still loses stamina, you may still get robbed by bandits, attacked by animals, or encounter any other nonsense like rocks and waterfalls so don’t leave Arthur unattended. (I wrote most of this blog while travelling, and yes I had to stop and shoot wolves once.) You can still steer the horse, slow down, speed up, and perform most other basic functions (like grabbing your gun) while in cinematic mode.

Camp & Upgrades

At some point you’ll have a chance to upgrade your camp to have some additional bells and whistles. In my opinion here are the ones that are worth the money… or not.

If you need to boost your honor I am told that $20 is the magic number for donating to the camp’s money box.  Less than that and it might not be as much of a bonus. more, and you could be just “wasting” money.

  • Leather tools: 100% worth it. Before Pearson can craft anything you need this, and the satchels are SO helpful. By the way: once you’ve purchased a satchel upgrade it applies to ANY satchel you have equipped, so don’t worry about which one you’re carrying. Pick the handbag that matches your outfit. 😉
  • The Boat: not worth it. Free boats can be found all over the place. I’m tempted to make a map of places where you can find one, if anyone’s interested.
  • Arthur’s wagon: worth it… if you remember to use the fast travel map.
  • Horse pen: worth it if you do it early (as available) but when I got it in late chapter 4, it was a bit of a waste.
  • Chicken coop: I say skip it. Supposedly adds a deadeye buff to the daily stew, but is it worth that amount of money when you can just cook something with thyme, practically for free? Stew never seemed to be ready when I was in camp.


Hunting and fishing can be some of the most rewarding parts of the game if you take your time with it.

  • Study animals (hold R1/RB) while aiming a gun or binoculars to update your compendium. Next time you activate Eagle Eye,  you will be able to identify this animal and its condition. Press the button again to get information on the animal and recommended weapon for hunting.
  • Stay near camp when you can. Don’t waste too much time hunting far from home. By all means explore EVERYWHERE but have a list of what you need for Pearson when you venture out. I guess I’m also saying “kill two birds with one deadeye use” by going out to find treasures & collectibles as well as hunting. Use the fast travel map to get there, and if funds can afford it, trains/stagecoaches to get back home. (Your horse will follow you with your pelts!)
  • I died, where’s my pelts? Legendary pelts will automatically go to the trapper. Pelts and carcasses in the satchel will remain there. Full size pelts on your horse… sorry, pal.
  • Sell or donate? When donating to Pearson pay attention to the prompts. If he needs the parts for crafting, it will say “Donate for crafting”. Once he’s got his requirements met, OR if he doesn’t need that part at all, it will say “donate for funds.” In the case of meats, it will always say instead “donate for provisions”  which means it goes into the stew pot for everyone to eat.  Anything you sell to the trapper turns into cash, but he “keeps” the pelts and feathers so that you can repurchase it at any time in the form of a new garment. However, keep an eye on the descriptions here (especially if selling to a butcher instead.) Certain animal parts can be used in solo crafting as well. If you’re far from home, selling excess parts to a trapper or butcher may be a better plan rather than leaving it on the forest floor. You can always donate the money to the camp later if you want.
  • Don’t bother with lower than 3★ animals for the most part. With bird feathers, it doesn’t matter, but the trapper and Pearson both need 3★ pelts for crafting.  If you happen to get one by mistake, just sell or donate it to camp. Speaking of which…
  • Get that legendary buck trinket ASAP. As soon as the Fence is available, you should be able to make trinkets/amulets out of parts collected from legendary animals. The legendary buck trinket gives you a chance of increasing the quality of a collected pelt. So if you use a weapon that’s a bit too powerful (varmint rifle on a 3★ squirrel, for instance) it might actually be salvagable. Even if it’s 2★ on the ground, it might be 3★ in inventory.
  • It’s impossible to screw up legendary pelts. Use the most powerful weapon you have—I actually used explosives to kill one of them. And, when you sell to the trapper, he will have exactly enough material to make whatever legendary garments he offers. Don’t worry!

Is this a spoiler? Who am I to say? Better safe than sorry. 

Where the hell do you find panthers?
These elusive bastards are only in one spot as far as I can tell (regardless of what online maps say.) In Lemoyne, south of the Braithwaite plantation, there’s a patch of trees between Old Harry Fen and Catfish Jacksons. Two species of panthers will spawn there but are a bit rare—only one a day, typically. Be ready with your favorite high powered rifle and standard bullets.


  • Cigarette Cards
    • As far as I can tell none of these are missable
    • Always pick up packs of premium cigarettes that you find. They contain additional cards.
    • If you’ve got money to burn you can buy packs of premium cigarettes at a store for the card inside the pack.
    • Make sure you talk to the bloke at Flatneck station!
    • Be careful, you CAN sell cards to the fence by accident. You need the full set of 144 cards to complete this side mission.
  • “Duchesses and Other Animals” Quest: In Chapter 4 you’ll be able to visit a shopkeeper who wants you to collect rare items for him.
    If you’re truly individualistic, the tips below could be considered spoilers so….
    Start saving these items
    Plumes: Little Egret, Reddish Egret, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Any Heron.
    Gator Eggs
    Rare item spawning
    If you collect orchids too early the remaining ones will despawn once you get to the last one needed. If using the map, don’t collect them ahead of time OR try to skip one/mark the location of one that despawned. The orchids do not respawn after picking them. The RDR2map will save information for you with a login.
    Gator eggs will respawn.
    Item locations
    I don’t recommend you look for the orchids on your own, because it’s INCREDIBLY difficult. Some will be on trees, some will be on the ground. We all have precious few hours in each day. Use this map to find them. It is filterable and searchable—you want the ‘Exotics’ category
    If requested I could make a list of general areas to look for each type. I know that sometimes part of the fun is finding things yourself. 

Food and Drink

  • Tonics are temporary, food is for the core. Also, the fuller your core is, the faster the ring will recharge on its own without a tonic. Core is also kind of the reserve stat. If you make Arthur swim or run a lot and he overexerts himself, he will start draining his core Stamina once the ring is depleted.
  • Coffee is kind of a waste of time. If you find it, just sell most of it to a store. *In game only
  • Herbs are magic.  Cook meat with mint, oregano, or thyme (press → in the crafting menu) to increase your cores a little more (and maybe even get gold). Someone told me food was unnecessary and that you could just sleep to restore your cores. That’s technically true, but the game became a little easier when I learned to cook using herbs. Speaking of which..
  • Make your own elixirs. Herbs are free to collect and respawn every half hour. If you have the time and inclination, you might even be able to make some money in the early stages of the game by crafting and selling to shops.
  • Always have a horse reviver and plenty of food. Trust me, you don’t want your horse to die.
  • Drink Ginseng Elixir, Aged Pirate Rum, and Valerian Root IMMEDIATELY. These contain stat-based XP to increase your health, stamina, and dead eye. (If you missed them, press and hold → to get into the satchel.

Other Stuff.

Random Encounters

When not on a mission you may occasionally see a small grey dot on the minimap with someone shouting for help. Sometimes it’s a trap, sometimes it’s not. There may be rewards, but the point is these are all COMPLETELY optional. The overall story will not change if you don’t participate. In fact the game will attempt to distract you and make you leave valuable pelts on the ground to save a damsel in distress. Which do you need more, the honor or the pelt?

Where My Hat, Yo?

If you drop your hat, check the saddlebag. Jump on your horse and check the third tab. Or, if you didn’t specifically store it on the horse, it may be in your wardrobe chest back at camp. There are several tabs under “hats” sorting them by crafted, found, etc.

This doesn’t always apply to hats that you randomly pick up from slain enemies. To be honest I have not figured out which get saved to your wardrobe as “stolen” and why some disappear.

On the Fence

Be sure to check the description on jewelry items. You may want to keep at least one of each item marked “can be used in crafting or sold.” Craftable jewelry is typically used in legendary trinket creation. The worst is when you have to go out and find a silver bracelet because you just sold one that you needed to use.

Instant Karma

In case you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, stroll through one of the larger towns and just greet everyone. Before too long you’ll see your honor level slowly tick upward. Plus it’s ridiculously fun to just walk around saying “Hey mister!”

Here are a few more simple things you can do to increase your reputation:

  • Help some folks out on the side of the road
  • Donate to camp or beggars
  • Go fishing and throw ’em back

Getting Crafty

Did you notice the small campfire at your hideout? That’s the equivalent to your camp out in the wilderness. It has a place to cook provisions for the road and allows you to craft items. Explore the menu and see what stuff you can make. Click “Show All” to see even the ones you can make regardless of available ingredients. Make your shopping list and go foraging!

While you’re in there, you can make things other than food and tonics. Try making split point or exploding bullets to add extra damage (hold down the craft button to make many of them repeatedly) or a fire bottle to chuck at enemy camps. Small game arrows are pretty valuable too.

Many of the ammo and weapons can be made without a campfire. Yep. Go into your item wheel, and scroll through choices at the bottom of the wheel. (Default is campfire in that slot.) Select “Crafting Tools” and get going!


This should have been obvious, but I didn’t realize for a while that Eagle Eye can be used when robbing houses, trains, etc., not just for hunting. It easily highlights any cabinets you can search, and items you can grab.

General tips

Save MULTIPLE game points. And often.

This is not a new thing specific to this game but an old habit from PC adventure gaming. Save your game into a new slot. Every time. 

Ok, maybe not if you’re just out hunting and gathering.

As you will learn though, sometimes the most innocuous actions set a chain of events in motion. Just walking into camp WITHOUT TALKING TO ANYONE can trigger a mission if there’s a yellow dot. You very well may want to jump back to a previous state if things go poorly and autosave triggered at the wrong time. You’ll thank me for this. (There’s a spoiler at the bottom of this page regarding one of these.)

I don’t bother with saving states early in the game. Who’s going to go back that far? Generally you’re fine just saving over your earliest point.

Avoid story spoilers… if you can.

Man it’s tough out there if you need help with the game. Spoilers are like ninjas. This is a VERY well crafted story which deserves your attention and it’s going to be better if you go along for the ride with the characters, so definitely don’t go seeking anything out.


I cannot stress this enough: Stay on top of the challenges.

A good number of them will be completed automatically during gameplay, but not until you’ve done a bit of legwork to make sure you get there. Challenges open up some AMAZING gear upgrades from the trapper, upgrade your stats, and teach you to stay on your game (so to speak.) I did all these VERY LATE in the game and it was painful. I’m a completionist so I felt compelled to try.

Chapter 3 is probably the best time to really start pushing on these if you haven’t already. By the end of chapter 4 it would be best to have them at least through levels 7-8, with one exception. 

Hold off on finishing Herbalist 8 until you’ve completed the side quest for Algernon Wasp AND have completed the main story. Trust me on this one. Or if you don’t trust me, read this. [Medium level spoilers in that link.]

Some challenges are easier than others and some cannot be finished until the main story is over. This sucks and is one of the reasons why some say they aren’t worth the effort. I’ll leave it to you though.

I won’t actually tell you how to do them because, well, I can’t. Here’s a fantastic playlist on Youtube from GTAmen.

Finally, just watch this video for some more great stuff. This taught me how the bounty system works and how to better use Dead Eye. AND DAT HORSE

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps your game!

Let me know if you have any questions or additional tips you think I should add here.

Spoilery things below (not too bad, I promise)

I just like to give people options!

Ya want this map.

If you read the entire collectibles section with spoilers above you probably already have this bookmarked. It’s free with an optional login which adds more features, and yet even more features for a flat $5. (They aren’t paying me to tell you this, but I sure wouldn’t mind a complimentary account)

Overall this VERY valuable for tracking down some of the more difficult collectibles. I just could not bring myself to do a grid search of the entire map to find dinosaur bones and such. Many of these are difficult to find even with a map location and instructions.

Chapter 4 to 5

Late in chapter 4, in Shady Belle, walking into the house will automatically trigger a mission called “Banking, The Old American Art.” This sets you on a VERY long chain of events that ultimately leads to chapter 5, a good portion of which takes place on an island called Guarma.

This is where it’s handy to have multiple save points. Hopefully you’ve saved before you walk into the house, and you should save again as soon as you are free to roam in Guarma. This is a break point for the game, as I am told some stranger missions that you missed at this point cannot start in chapter 5.

Guarma is very limited and you cannot return. Only two missions are available—a stranger mission and a Dutch mission. Dutch will trigger a VERY long sequence of 4 or 5 missions and cut scenes so be sure you do the stranger mission first. Time-wise you’re looking at easily 2 hours spent on Guarma. This easily rivals the opening as most time consuming. (Granted  I haven’t quite finished the game yet.)

This next part I say even as a completionist: it is a WASTE OF TIME trying to collect the Guarma animals for the compendium. They don’t count toward 100% completion. Most of them are difficult to find. If you really want, there are guides out there on where to find the animals, but know that I gave up after probably TWO HOURS and didn’t find them all.

That’s two hours I could have been doing literally anything else. Just. Stupid.

Chapter 6

Here’s where multiple saves did NOT help.

Chapter 6 is the long, final chapter of the main story. Heading into the end of it I looked at mission titles so I could be sure that I didn’t go too far. I was told that “My Last Boy” was the “point of no return” for the main story.

While this is probably accurate, there’s one very important thing I wish I knew: After “My Last Boy,” Pearson will no longer be at camp. That means the time I spent finally getting a perfect panther pelt to complete the last two satchels, was wasted.

My only other option was to redo the mission as well, which was a good 45 minutes or so and a bit traumatic.

I chose to suck it up and complete the satchels later. I might have to get all new pelts at that point, but at the time it seemed less painful than redoing that mission.

In this case I’ll save one of those save points a bit longer, just in case I change my mind.

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  1. Tony T. on January 2, 2019

    This is a great bit of extra info. I knew about 60% but that other 40 will help tons!! Thanks for putting this together