Like Grand Theft Auto Online and the multiplayer mode of the original Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Online features a straightforward ranking system. Each of the online mode's activities will reward players with different amounts of XP which will let the character level up once enough XP has been obtained, in turn unlocking new abilities and purchasable items.
While just playing the game and doing activities is enough to earn XP, some of these activities will reward players with way more XP, so if you're aiming to get to a high rank as quickly as possible, you may want to spend more time doing some activities in place of others.
While in Free Roam mode, you will be able to explore the Red Dead Online map at your leisure, interact with NPCs and other players and complete a variety of activities.
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If you're just starting out, we suggest you complete as many Story Missions as possible, as they introduce you to many of the game's most important mechanics, make you earn some good money and XP. You can also use the Story Mission On-Call option in the Free Roam menu to join other players' sessions. Story Missions that you have already completed once will not give you money, but you will still gain XP, so replaying Story Missions you particularly liked is a very good way to earn extra XP while having fun.
Once you have completed several Story Missions, you may want to branch out a bit to earn more XP. There are two ways to earn some good XP while in Free Roam mode. The first is to clear Gang Hideouts, which is pretty straightforward: locate one and kill all of the enemies found inside.
The second is to complete Stranger Missions. These missions, like in the main game, task players with completing a variety of objectives. In Red Dead Online, Stranger Missions are much more straightforward than in the single-player campaign, and faster to complete as well. A yellow zone on the map marks the area where a Stranger Mission is located, and they are usually found near towns, cities and other settlements like ranches.
Hunting and Fishing are two peaceful activities that also help you rank up quickly. Alongside the inherent XP gained from catching fish and killing game, there are many challenges which will boost your XP gain.
Once you have reached a certain Rank, completing activities in Free Roam mode will not be as effective as before, so it's time to look at the competitive multiplayer modes, which are, currently, the best way to earn XP quickly.
There are currently six different multiplayer modes in Red Dead Online. Hostile Territory mode sees two teams of players capturing areas of the map and defending them against the opposing teams. Make It Count is the game's Battle Royale mode, where up to 32 players fight against one another with a limited weapon selection and a progressively shrinking player area. Most Wanted puts bounties on the head of players, with the one at the top of the leaderboards being the most wanted player with the higher bounty. Name Your Weapon mode gives points depending on the weapon used to make the kill. Shootout mode is a one versus all shootout mode where the player with the highest kill count wins, and Team Shootout mode is a team-based variation of the mode.
All of these multiplayer modes give decent amounts of XP, but there a few ones that award slightly more. The Name Your Weapon mode is probably the best competitive multiplayer mode for getting XP, but you need to become good with two specific weapons, the Tomahawk and the Throwing Knives, to maximize XP for each match. The Name Your Weapon mode gives players one single point for opponents killed with a Revolver, two points for opponents killed using a Carbine and three points for killing enemies with a Shotgun. Tomahawk and Throwing Knives kills net six points, so it's clear how killing your opponents with these weapons is the way to go. Killing opponents with a hunting knife actually nets the most points in the mode, seven, but it's extremely difficult to get close to an opponent to kill them this way, as all players' positions are tracked and visible on the mini-map.
If Name Your Weapon isn't your thing, you may want to try out Shootout and Team Shootout. There is also a "large" variation for this mode, allowing 32 players to participate in the same match.
If objective-based multiplayer modes are more your liking, they also net decent amounts of XP. In order to maximize XP gain, however, you need to follow the objectives and not limit yourself to just killing your opponents.