The main protagonist and playable character. A former outlaw who ran with Dutch Van Der Linde's gang, a huge falling-out with the gang led to John deciding to go straight and try to raise a family. However, the Bureau of Investigations wants to eliminate the gang, and they force John - by holding his family hostage - to take up his guns once again and hunt down and capture or kill the men he once called friends.
Amazon Chaser: Abigail used to ride with their gang, is often referred to shutting men up, and is even more of a verbal badass than John is.
Anti-Hero: John is an Anti-Hero no matter how you play him, but the Karma Meter makes it somewhat difficult to ascertain exactly whatAnti-Hero he is. A player who does consistently good deeds, along with Marston's willingness to help people in need and motivation for the main story for make him more of a Type II or a light Type III. A particularly nasty player can make him a Type IV or even a Type V.
Even Marston Has Standards: When ordered to burn down a village by De Santa, Marston is clearly against the idea but is forced to go along with it to maintain the support of the Mexican army. Afterwards, he's pretty disgusted at himself while everyone else is happily pillaging.
Expy: Played with, as he resembles Red Harlow physically but not in personality
Genius Bruiser: Due to his lack of education, he does not qualify for a Badass Bookworm, but it becomes clear very quickly that John is extremely intelligent and, had he received an education, could have likely pursued any path he wanted.
Handicapped Badass: There are several hints that point to John being nearly blind in his left eye. He's still quite a sharpshooter however. He even quips, "Looks like I got my eye back" once you killed a few people in Dead Eye mode.
Happily Married: He absolutely adores his wife. In contrast to every other Rockstar protagonist out there, he turns down every other woman's advances without hesitation, always remaining faithful to her.
Nice Guy: Generally tries to be cooperative with those he's working with and displays a large amount of restraint and patience, not to mention being a very loving father and husband.
Beware the Nice Ones: Despite this, he does have his limits and will not hesitate to threaten those he feels aren't holding up their side of the bargain.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: You feel doing all of those good deeds and side stories don't you? Ross says Hello. John Marston is quite possibly the Trope Codifier. All the good deeds he does throughout the game... is undone when Ross and his men come to kill him.
Lovable Coward: Of a sort - he may be a swindler who often cowers behind schoozing and stronger friends when his lies come back to bite him, but he also volunteers a plan to help John face Williamson without being prompted or asked by John at all and is right there with him when the assault happens.
Could also fall under Worst Aid. It's ambiguous whether Mr. Dickens knowingly sells junk or actually believes in the stuff he's peddling, as he never gives up the act even when it's just him and the highly skeptical Marston. If we grant that the in-game cartoon about the dangers of medical science that WILL KILL YOU AND LEAVE YOU DEAD is about Dickens, it seems that the medicine technically could have useful ingredients, though apparently at the wrong dosages and with the wrong mixtures.
Vitriolic Best Buds: His relationship with John to an extent, particularly in Undead Nightmare, when they bid each other a relatively fond farewell. When John later sees West Dickens getting arrested in Blackwater, he gets Ross to pardon him.
An arms dealer that John has to deal with as part of the assault on Bill Williamson.
Do with Him as You Will: A possible fate for him. If John decides not to personally kill him, he'll walk away and tell the rebels that he's all theirs, after which they'll proceed to perforate him with bullets.
Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: When de Santa first meets John, he acts extremely hostile, to the point of having his soldiers aim their weapons at him. A few seconds later he bursts out laughing and explains that he was joking. John is less than amused.
The Dragon: To Allende. Well, not if you ask Espinoza....
Right Hand Versus Left Hand: He hates Captain Espinoza, and attempts to get him killed along with John by sending them against a large group of rebels equipped only with unskilled new recruits.
Straight Gay: While his homosexuality is strongly hinted at in his interactions with the drink pourer and openly mocked by his enemies, he fits this trope.'
Morality Pet: For John. He helps her out not just to forward his own goals but because she's one of the few characters to not earn his contempt. He's also somewhat offended by the fact that Reyes can't even remember her name despite telling her that she will be his wife.
Nonstandard Character Design: Whereas most of the RDR cast look realistic, Luisa looks like she came off a Mexican wall mural - her eyes in particular.
Really Gets Around: Claims that it's his duty to spread his seed amongst his citizens as future Presidente. In Undead Nighmares it's mentioned that pregnant girls tend to be tossed to the nuns however.
Colonel Allende's other, more competent right-hand man in the war against the rebels.
Badass: Unlike De Santa, Espinoza is not afraid to head into combat.
Badass In Charge: He is an incredibly efficient military commander and he always leads the charge on any battle he's fighting in.
Dirty Cop: He's not above kidnapping someone's family to make them hunt down outlaws that he should be hunting down.
Dirty Coward: He does participate in a few firefights, including the assault on Beecher's Hope, but that doesn't quite make up for the fact that he spends the whole game forcing John, by kidnapping his innocent family, to risk life and limb hunting down Dutch's gang instead of doing it himself.
Establishing Character Moment: The very first thing we see Ross do is rudely shove a paper boy out of his way as he's escorting John to the train. And if that wasn't enough to let us know that he's hardly a pleasant guy, the next time we see him, he tells John that Abigail "sends her regards" and gives a snide little chuckle.
Fake Ultimate Hero: At the game's end, the "official" story is that Ross was a great hero who brought down Dutch's gang, bringing these murderers and thieves to justice. Almost no one knows that the true story had Ross force one of the gang's former members - who was desperately trying to go straight and live a normal life - to do his dirty work for him, only to stab him in the back after promising to leave him and his family alone.
Final Boss: The main storyline concludes with a duel between him and Jack Marston, at the bank of the San Luis river.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Lights up a cigar as he watches John take his last breaths, satisfied that Dutch's Gang has been completely wiped out.
Glory Hound: As much as Ross harps on about morality and how everyone must pay for their misdeeds, when it comes to wiping out Dutch's gang, it's heavily implied at one point that he's also in it for the medals. And according to his brother, he was awarded a "chestful" of them after taking care of John, fully eliminating the gang. He'd be a mere Glory Seeker if his methods weren't so underhanded.
Hero Antagonist: At his core, he wants to bring about law, order and civilization, and eliminate all those who seek to destroy it. He's an asshole for sure, and his means of accomplishing this end are often underhanded to say the least, but it's hard to fault his basic goals. One can argue he stopped being this when he backstabs John, who's trying to go straight, after he did exactly what he wanted him to do.
Jerkass: While Fordham at least shows gratitude and at least respect occasionally towards John and others, Ross is disdainful towards everyone he runs into - not just John - and considers himself nobler and morally above pretty much the entire West by default. He constantly refers to the people he protects as savages, fools and scum that should be lucky to have his assistance, and is just in general very unlikeable. He is even disrespectful to those working for him, like Fordham (who he is constantly putting down) and Nastas (who he refers to as a savage).
Hypocrite: He claims that what he does is morally right by bringing peace and order to the frontier, but nothing changes the fact that kidnapping a man's (innocent) family is pretty barbaric way to go about doing so. The best part is that he's also absolutely aware of this, and seems to believe the ends justify the means.
Metaphorgotten: Goes on a long, increasingly bizarre monologue about Dutch's anarchy at the beginning of the mission "And You Shall Know The Truth...".
Not So Different: Between John, and himself, they really aren't. Neither of them can escape their past. John can't escape his past life of crime, while Ross can't his life as a government employee, constantly being pulled back in to work.
Furthermore, it's arguable that he really might not be that different from Dutch. Both are fighting for what they believe to be best for society, Ross for civilization and Dutch for anarchy, and both display a complete willingness to Shoot the Dog if that's what it takes to get there. But the game shows that both of them are hypocrites and neither of they're plans are without flaws anyway. The only real difference is that in the end, Ross is remembered as the hero and Dutch as the vicious outlaw, but then the game points out that had more to do with civilization ultimately triumphing and history being Written by the Winners then any real moral superiority of one over the other.
Pet the Dog: When you're hunting him down as Jack, you talk to his wife and brother... and what they say hints that he has sympathetic traits despite being a menace to the Marston family.
Also, he has Nigel West Dickens pardoned after John tells him that West Dickens helped him capture Bill Williamson.
Reckless Gun Usage: He gives John the high-powered pistol by shoving it barrel-first into John's stomach. But then again, he's not too concerned about John's well-being.
After taking John's gun to put a bullet in Dutch's corpse so it'll "look better on the report", he gives it back by tossing it to him.
Reason You Suck Speech: Fond of giving long flowing speeches about how he and the law are right and just, and how everything Dutch stood for and every fiber of John's being is morally bankrupt - usually in response to John calling him out on using extortion and kidnapping to further his own ends. Ross - who cannot accept that that John could possibly be a changed man - never lets an opportunity pass to pontificate, often hypocritically, on how lacking in character John is.
Smug Snake: Both he and Fordham are irritatingly condescending to Marston whenever they meet.
Troll: After John has fulfilled his end of the deal and asks about his family, Ross falsely tells him that Abigail was killed in a prison riot the previous week, just to mess around with him. He's lucky that John didn't shoot him right then and there, which he was ready to do before Ross revealed that he was "just joking".
Agent Archer Fordham
Ross' ambitious, eager and aggressive apprentice, who follows his orders no matter what.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He thanks John if he gets Javier alive. And he even congratulates John after Dutch is taken care of. He also doesn't seem to show up when Ross kills John, possibly due to the respect he gained for him.
What Happened to the Mouse?: It is debatable whether he appears in the final attack. If not, he is never seen or mentioned again after John kills Dutch.
Professor Harold MacDougal
A "researcher" of Native Americans, MacDougal is a perfect representation of science of his time.
When the player first meets him, he is apparently comparing blood samples under a microscope. He tells John that those of a Native American seems to be exactly alike in composition to that of a white man, but he seems to be rather pleasantly surprised by the revelation rather than insulted as would be expectable by other racists.
He also seems genuinely saddened by Nastas' death, and even posts a paragraph in the Blackwater Ledger paying his respects.
The Load: Does nothing but make more trouble for you.
Man Hug: Gives one to John as he goes back to Yale.
A local indian who was hired by Edgar Ross to help John hunt Dutch down.
Nature Lover: In his words, "There is no respect for the land anymore." He's very concerned about the future of the forests, what with the West becoming more "civilized", and laments the overhunting of the buffalo. He'll even call you a bastard if he sees you kill an animal during the mission "At Home With Dutch".
Archnemesis Dad: Sort of. He adopted John, Bill, and Javier when they were children, and raised them as a part of his gang. MacDougal even states that the current relationship between John and Dutch is Oedipal in nature.
Hypocrite: See Wicked Cultured below. Despite fighting civilization in favor of the old, more simple and egalitarian way of life that the Old West allowed men to live, you can tell from looking through caves in Cochinay that he's very well read and likely extremely intelligent. Ultimately, he's probably not that different from the people he's trying to fight: bankers, industrialists and government agents that civilization put in power, and under different circumstances probably would've had the smarts to be one himself. There's other evidence of this as well, he uses a Semi-Automatic pistol in cutscenes and escapes from the bank robbery in an automobile. It goes to show how not even he could resist the influence of encroaching civilization, and it seems likely that this fact might have been what ultimately drove him over the Despair Event Horizon.
Took a Level in Badass: Before John's death? A bookish, somewhat awkward teenager, always getting himself into trouble. After John's death? He's become a Badass, just like his father, who hunts down and slays Edgar Ross in a duel as an act of vengeance. Unfortunately, this is the polar opposite of what John wanted his son to be.