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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.
- Action Dad: John's defining trait is his devotion to his family. The very reason he's going on a long, violent quest across New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso, and West Elizabeth to hunt down his former gang? The BOI has them trapped in a Gilded Cage and he wants to set them free.
- Amazon Chaser: Abigail used to ride with their gang and is even more of a verbal badass than John is.
- Anger Born of Worry: Has some harsh words for Jack after saving him in "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child". Considering that the kid tried to hunt and take down a grizzly bear by himself, it's quite justified.
- Anti-Hero: John is an Anti-Hero no matter how you play him, but the Karma Meter makes it somewhat difficult to ascertain exactly what Anti-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.
- The Atoner: It's right there in the title.
- Back from the Dead: In Undead Nightmare, John returns to the world as a zombie.
- Badass Baritone: His voice is somewhat deep.
- Badass Beard: He has a noticeable neckbeard, in the best way possible.
- Badass Boast: "You'll be the first to know when I kill you, I promise."
- Badass Cape: The poncho outfit.
- Badass Longcoat: Quite a few of his outfits.
- Badass Bandolier: Not at first, but you can get one.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Should the player feel so thus inclined in the Stranger missions.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Determinator: This picture pretty much sums it up.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Dies in a shootout with an Army contingent manned by Ross all by himself, to give his family time to escape.
- Everyone 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. On top of that, and his disgust with all the other colorful characters he meets, no matter how much of a murderous douche you play him as, as this comic lampshades, he'll never cheat on his wife.
- Expy: Played with, as he resembles Red Harlow physically but not in personality
- Fastest Gun in the West
- 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.
- Good Parent: To Jack. He's caring, stern, and tries to set him on the right path.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: While he can be good or evil depending on how you play, he sure didn't get them "falling over in church", as he puts it.
- The Gunslinger
- 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.
- Heel–Face Revolving Door: He'll assist any side that helps him get the men he wants, especially in Mexico.
- The Hero/Villain Protagonist: A fully filled karma meter on the good side will give you the title of “hero", while a fully filled karma meter on the bad side will give you the title “desperado".
- The Hero Dies
- Heroic Neutral: Just wants to be left alone with his family.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He allows the government to kill him, so his wife and son can live the rest of their lives in peace. But he doesn't go down without taking a few with him.
- Karma Houdini: Ross considers him to be one of these, to the point that he kills him.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Reyes even calls him a romantic trying to be a cynic.
- Last Stand: Mows down a full army of bad guys before finally meeting his end, all to save his family.
- Mr. Fanservice
- Nice Guy/Affably Evil: 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.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: He only starts to openly work for the rebels after Allende and de Santa tried to screw him over and Reyes saved him. Otherwise he treats them as a means to an end, though he's somewhat sympathetic towards Luisa.
- One-Man Army: He, by himself, fought off bandits, rebels, wolves, cougars, and the Mexican and US Armies (if only).
- Outlaw Parents Want Good Kids: He and Abigail made Jack unaware of their profession, especially in regard to the days of Dutch's gang.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Lampshaded by Bill Williamson - John was always one for "fancy words."
- Papa Wolf: Very protective of his son; when he finds out that Jack went hunting a Grizzly by himself in "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child", he wastes no time setting off to find him. In the final shootout, he flips out at the attacking US soldiers as they try to harm his family. And he ultimately allows himself to be killed to give them a chance at a life without Ross and his cronies coming for them.
- Parental Abandonment: His mother died in childbirth, and his father died when he was 8, leaving him to grow up in an orphanage until he met Dutch.
- Retired Outlaw: He simply wants to live his days out in peace with his family.
- Rugged Scar: Covered in em'. As he says, he certainly didn't get them "falling over in church".
- Warrior Poet: He's a surprisingly eloquent speaker, something that Bill Williamson points out.
- Wild Card: In Mexico, he's willing to work with whomever he thinks can get him to Williamson and Escuella.
New Austin Arc
A ranch owner that helps out John early in the game.
- Action Girl
- All Love Is Unrequited: It's implied that by the last time she meets John she's developed a crush on him. However it seemed that she moved on by the epilogue, where it's stated that she's married.
- Christmas Cake: She's 29, which counts for that era.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Nice Girl: One of the friendliest characters that John meets in the game.
- Spirited Young Lady
Marshal Leigh Johnson
The no-nonsense District Marshal of Armadillo.
- Badass Grandpa
- Cool Old Guy
- Guns Akimbo: In cutscenes only, unfortunately.
- Knight in Sour Armor
- Reasonable Authority Figure: To an extent.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: According to the epilogue, he eventually retired as Marshal and moved as far away from Armadillo as he could.
- The Sheriff: Despite being a Marshal.
Nigel West Dickens
A traveling salesman and a self-proclaimed man of science.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Say what you will about Mr. West Dickens. He may be a Dirty Coward, but he also helps John with an assault on Fort Mercer, complete with shooting some of the enemies.
- For Science!: He often claims to be a man of science, though it's clear that it's just a sales pitch.
- Large Ham: When trying to advertise his wares.
- 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.
- Nice Hat: His top hat.
- Not So Different: He never lets John mock his line of work without pointing out John's own dubious past in return.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: His elixir may not heal any of the afflictions he claims, but it has a much-appreciated effect on Marston's Dead Eye abilities, permanently upgrading it to the second tier of use.
- The Smart Guy: For the plan to take Fort Mercer.
- Smug Snake: Arrogant and boastful, but is also obviously a con-man selling questionably-valuable wares.
- Snake Oil Salesman: Formerly the page image.
- 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.
- Small Name, Big Ego
- The Strategist: Despite seemingly being a hack, he does devise a plan to assault Fort Mercer that works like a charm, in addition to putting John in touch with the other characters who supply the equipment (namely, a gatling gun) to make it happen.
- 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.
- The Alcoholic: John seems to never meet him while he's sober.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday:Marston: I'm the guy who saved you from gettin' killed back there and who you owe your life to, remember?Irish: Not really, happens to me all the time.
- Butt Monkey
- Dirty Coward: Notably, he happens to be "late" during the assault of Fort Mercer, where even West Dickens and Seth fight for a bit. However he'll fight back if he has absolutely no choice.
- Friend in the Black Market: He's one of West Dickens' shadier contacts.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: The epilogue states that he managed to get himself killed while drunkenly fiddling around with a gun in an outhouse.
- Only Known By His Nickname: He's simply referred to as "Irish" by all other characters. The newspaper in the epilogue simply refers to him as an unnamed Irishman.
- Undignified Death: Shot himself while drunkenly fiddling with a gun while in an outhouse.
- Ungrateful Bastard: His response to John saving his life is to send him off, unwittingly, to an almost certain death to avoid repaying his debt.
A maniacal treasure hunter that West Dickens sends John towards.
- Butt Monkey
- Captain Ersatz: Basically they took Gollum and put him in the Wild West.
- Depraved Bisexual: States that he's had a wife and child once while implying that his relationship with Moses Forth was more than just partners.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted; while robbing a grave he expresses disgust at one of the corpses he exhumes laying with his sister... but that's just because he doesn't like women, full stop.
- The Pig Pen: He's absolutely filthy due to his maniacal, narrow-minded obsession with finding the treasure.
- Shaggy Dog Story: "A glass eye?!? IT'S A GLASS EYE!"
- Shout-Out: West Dickens nicknames him Seth of the Dead.
- In Undead Nightmare he also plays cards with his now undead friend Moses, in similar fashion the ending of Shaun of the Dead shows Shaun playing video games with zombie-Ed
- Reverse Mole: His role as part of the assault on Williamson is getting inside Fort Mercer and opening the gates for John and the others.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: In the epilogue it is mentioned that he actually found real treasure and became rich.
- He also has a prominent role in the Undead Nightmare DLC and generally fares very well within the Zombie Apocalypse.
Eli and Jonah
Marshal Leigh Johnson's two deputies in Armadillo. They accompany John and Marshal Johnson on a few early New Austin missions.
- Ambiguously Jewish: Which Herbert Moon helpfully points out.
- Clueless Deputy: Jonah in particular is as dumb as a post. Eli is at least a little more competent.
- Fat and Skinny: In a bit of an inversion, the heavyset Eli seems to be smarter and more competent than the rail-thin Jonah.
- Those Two Guys: Their brief screentime is largely comic relief.
The first of John's former gang members that he has to bring to justice.
- Arc Villain: Of the New Austin arc.
- Asshole Victim: Of a sorts. He gets relentlessly hunted down by a criminal that, from his point of view is no better than himself, has several members of his gang shot, captured, and killed, is pursued to fucking Mexico and then thrown under the bus (and to the ground) in an utterly humilating attempt by Col. Allende to save himself. It doesn't work, and he is graphically shot dead without any meaningful last words whatsoever. Might be a bad way to die, but nobody seems to care.
- This is more than likely due to his numerous crimes of crime and intimidiation, such as arson, murder, kidnapping, and likely rape. Also, when being chased down by John right before his final moments, he taunts him by stating he "fucked with Abigail" (his wife), along with the rest of the gang.
- Beard of Evil
- Brains and Brawn: With Javier.
- The Brute
- Disc One Final Boss: Think your job's done after killing him? Ross has other plans.
- Dirty Coward: Whenever he encounters John, a man he truly loathes, he never faces him. Bill prefers to send his men after him, and in the mission in which he is killed, he doesn't bother to stay behind and gun down his friend, opting to flee with Col. Allende instead.
- Dumb Muscle: John states that Bill was never the smartest one of the gang.
- Evil Former Friend
- Repetitive Name
- The Sociopath
Nuevo Paraiso Arc
The provincial governor of Nuevo Paradiso. A brutal tyrant with a love of sexual violence.
- Arc Villain: Of the Nuevo Paraíso arc.
- The Caligula: Known for kidnapping young women to serve in his personal harem.
- Cool Sword: Never uses it though.
- Colonel Kilgore : His general policy towards rebels is to kill everyone.
- Dirty Coward: Offers Williamson in return for his own life.
- Evil Counterpart: Is this to Reyes. Allende used to be a poor peasant once, eventually becoming a powerful figure in the Mexican army and living in a luxurious villa. This is a reflection of Reyes, who was born wealthy and is now leading the peasants in the revolution.
- Evil Overlord: For the part of Mexico that John is in, at least.
- The Heavy: To Ignacio Sanchez. Sanchez is the actual leader of the Mexican Army, but he never gets directly involved in the story and is never seen in the game, while Allende personally leads the army and handles Sanchez's operations. He's also Reyes's main target instead of Sanchez.
- Kill 'em All: His MO.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: His hobby is kidnapping and raping young women, and he's one of the most evil characters in the game.
- The Sociopath: He's an utter sociopath: remorseless, brutal, sadistic and self-centered.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: So long ago, but he decided he preferred the easy life. In this way, he and Reyes are Not So Different.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Tries to get John executed, but Reyes pulls a Big Damn Heroes.
Vincente de Santa
The second-in-command (maybe) of Allende, who openly supports his methods.
- Affably Evil: Despite strongly supporting Allende's brutal, harsh methods, he appears to be a somewhat jovial, friendly guy.
- Depraved Homosexual: Subverted; while his enemies claims that he is this trope, his style of villainy and general behaviour state otherwise.
- Depraved Bisexual: What he does to women, on the other hand...
- 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 vs. 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.'
- Sycophantic Servant
A retired American gunslinger, now residing in Mexico protecting the local townsfolk.
- Badass Grandpa: Despite his age, he is one of the best allies and one of the best fighters John has while in Mexico.
- Badass Moustache: OH HELL YES.
- Berserk Button: He despises seeing innocent people such as Luisa come to harm.
- Expy: His resemblance to Sam Elliot has been noted.
- Fastest Gun in the West
- Living Legend
- The Mentor: Helps John further improve his Dead Eye skills. He later does the same for Jack.
- One-Man Army: In Undead Nightmare, he single handedly keeps Casa Madrugada safe from the Undead.
- Papa Wolf: To the citizens of Chuparosa.
- Retired Gunslinger: While his days as a legend of the west are over, he'll pick up that revolver to protect Chuparosa.
A young schoolteacher and a member of Reyes' rebels, who she sees as a great hero.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Despite being an otherwise bright person, Luisa actually believes Reyes' lies and thinks that he honestly loves her when in actuality he can't even remember her name.
- Love Martyr
- 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.
- Stupid Good
- Too Dumb to Live: Attacking a group of government soldiers with just a knife was a stupid move.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: To the point of being blind to any of Reyes' faults. She also has trouble understanding that John doesn't care about the revolution as much as she does.
The leader of the rebels. A charismatic son of nobles who proves to be not nearly as great as he says.
- Affably Evil: He may be a power hungry wannabe-hero who manipulates civilians into helping him just so that he can take over Mexico, but he's very charismatic and polite. He even treats John as if he was his best friend.
- Big Bad: Technically this for Undead Nightmare. He's the one who starts the Zombie Apocalypse after taking an Aztec mask he thought would make him invincible.
- Big Damn Heroes: Saves John from being executed by de Santa, returning the favor from earlier.
- Glory Hound
- Full-Circle Revolution: It's revealed in the epilogue that after leading the rebellion to victory and becoming Presidente, Reyes becomes just another tyrannical dictator.
- I Gave My Word: At the least, he doesn't try to screw John over and does end up helping him take down Escuella and Williamson.
- Jerkass: It's pretty clear to John that Reyes is a man obsessed with power more than he is with actually doing any good. He also regularly cheats on Luisa, won't marry her because she's a peasant, and keeps forgetting her name even after she dies trying to save his life.
- Karma Houdini: Though he's an ally to you during the story, he still ultimately becomes a tyrannical dictator by the epilogue, and then there's also the matter of how he led Luisa to an early grave without any concern.
- Large Ham: An absolutely DELICIOUS one.
- 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 In Charge: He is an incredibly efficient military commander and he always leads the charge on any battle he's fighting in.
- The Captain
- Eyepatch of Power
- Face Death with Dignity: When the rebels take Chuparosa, he refuses to flee and continues fighting from the town hall until Marston finally kills him.
- Only One Name
- Right Hand vs. Left Hand: He severely dislikes De Santa and constantly competes with him for Allende's favor.
- Sadist: After defeating a rebel platoon in Tesoro Azul, he orders the village burnt and the deceased rebels' wives kidnapped and (most likely) raped to send a message to surviving rebels.
- Weapon of Choice: He asks John what his favorite weapon is as they ride towards Chuparosa. From his recurrent use of it, the Schoffield revolver appears to be his favorite weapon.
- Worthy Opponent: He appears to hold some degree of respect for Marston, most likely due to his prowess in combat.
One of John's former gang members and evidently the brains of the group. He aided Bill in going to Nuevo Paraiso to escape from John.
- Broken Pedestal: According to John, he was hit the hardest by Dutch going insane.
- Brains and Brawn: With Bill.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer
- Dirty Coward: Once John starts gunning for him, he's running the entire time. It makes him calling John a puto (bitch) rather hypocritical.
- Evil Former Friend
- Nice Hat: Just look at that sombrero.
West Elizabeth Arc (Warning: Major Spoilers)
Agent Edgar Ross
A federal agent forcing Marston to go after his former gang members. He's holding Marston's wife and son hostage, until he finishes the job... and even then, Ross still has something up his sleeve...
- Asshole Victim: While Jack hunting down and killing Ross made him the polar opposite of what his parents wanted him to be, Ross really had it coming.
- Big Bad: Of the whole game.
- Blue Oni: Cold, calculating Blue to Fordham's hot-headed, aggressive Red.
- BOI Agent
- Create Your Own Outlaw: Him killing John makes Jack a revenge-driven outlaw.
- 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.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: During the epilogue when Jack hunts him down we meet his wife and brother who demonstrate that, at least off the job, Ross has a soft side.
- Expy: A corrupt law enforcement official with an irritatingly smug personality who forces the protagonist to do his dirty work by holding family hostage, claims to be doing what he does for the greater good, and decides to kill the protagonist after they've done everything he asked? Are we talking about Agent Edgar Ross or Officer Frank Tenpenny?
- 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.
- Holier Than Thou: Though centered on morality rather than religion.
- 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.Marston: My side ain't chosen! My side was given. I'd kill you a hundred times before I killed Dutch, if it was an option.Ross: Hallelujah! I think we're finally reaching an understanding Mr. Marston!
- He also talks about the need for the rule of law, yet brings in the Army to serve as a police force against Dutch's gang, something that was and is illegal to do. Of course, considering how powerful Dutch's gang had become, he's arguably has a point.
- Inspector Javert: To John Marston's Valjean; he continues to rage against Marston's supposed monstrousness and in the process becomes quite monstrous himself.
- I Have Your Wife and Son: This is how he gets John under his thumb.
- Jerkass: While Fordham at least shows gratitude and even 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).
- Kick the Dog: He seems to love making snide, insensitive remarks about John's family. And one of the first things we see him do is rudely shove a little boy selling newspapers out of his way.
- 3 years after John is killed and Jack confronts him, Edgar laughs as he recalls killing Jack's father, and tells him to get lost before he kills him, too. He doesn't get the chance to.
- Knight Templar: He's aiming to bring law and order to the West and wipe out the gangs, by any means necessary.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: He commands a platoon to kill John, the last member of Dutch's gang, and comes out of it unscathed and smoking a cigar. He's seen far and wide as a hero, and the man who took out Javier Escuella, Bill Williamson and Dutch as well, stealing all of John's merits. Jack makes sure to subvert the trope by finding Edgar and killing him in a duel three years later. The jury's still out on whether John gets Vindicated by History by the "Red Dead" book you can find in Grand Theft Auto V, which was likely written by Jack.
- Laser-Guided Karma: He forces John to hunt down and kill his old gang members against his will and constantly mocks John for thinking he could just walk away from his past without some sort of punishment to the point where he later feels justified in killing John despite him having walked away from a life of crime. Later Ross tries to walk away from his own career of underhanded actions but is constantly pulled back into work by his own government and eventually killed by one of the people he crossed who wanted to make sure Ross wasn't a Karma Houdini himself. Essentially Ross never realized that his speeches to John about the past catching up with you could apply to himself as well.
- 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.
- 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.
- He shows genuine concern for the safety of the innocent bank workers during Dutch's raid on Blackwater.
- Punch Clock Villain: Played with and ultimately subverted. He forces John to hunt down his old comrades and is a Jerk Ass when working alongside John, but he claims it's because someone needs to civilize the West. Once Dutch is dealt with, Ross then honors their agreement and returns John's family to their farm. He then has the Army and Bureau hunt John down at the end to finish the job. Off the job, Ross has a wife who clearly loves him and a brother who he appears close with. However, even retired, Ross is an ass to Jack without even knowing who he is and taunts him about killing John.
- "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 John could possibly be a changed man - never lets an opportunity pass to pontificate, often hypocritically, on how lacking in character John is.
- 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.
- Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror kicks in when you realize that Ross was deliberately doing this. If Marston had died from his own gun it would have saved Ross a lot of trouble hunting him down later.
- Resignations Not Accepted: His wife tells Jack that while he tried to retire, the government keeps pulling him back in. Becomes ironic as that's exactly what he did to John.
- Retired Monster: At the end of the game, Jack finds out that Ross has retired to spend his twilight years with his family. Well, he's tried to retire, but the Bureau keeps dragging him back to work (Sound familiar?). Whether Ross is truly evil or not is debatable, but there's no denying that Ross did some truly underhanded things during his career, and when Jack catches up with him, it's clear that he has zero regrets for what he did to John.
- Smug Snake: Both he and Fordham are irritatingly condescending to Marston whenever they meet.
- Treacherous Quest Giver: Considering he both controls the main plot and kills John at the end anyway.
- 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.
- BOI Agent
- The Dragon: To Ross.
- Good Is Not Nice: He's quite the Jerk Ass, but he's also dedicated to taking down Dutch's gang and bringing order and peace to the West.
- Red Oni: Hot-headed and aggressive Red to Ross' cold, calculating Blue.
- Smug Snake: Though not quite as much as Ross is.
- Jerk Ass: He's not much nicer to John than Ross is, saying they should have had him killed and calling his wife a whore.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: That said, he does thank 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.
- He also appears to actually show some respect and concern for Nastas; this is in contrast to Ross who calls him a savage and asks if he can even speak English.
- 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.
- Absent-Minded Professor: Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
- Ax-Crazy: Gets kicked out of Yale after beating a colleague over the head with a croquet mallet and climbing up to the roof completely naked, in what is described as a "savage" attack, likely after a bad trip.
- For Science!
- Genre Blind: In Undead Nightmare, he gets about two lines. The first is him stating that he doesn't have a clue of what's going on, and the second is one of the most Genre Blind lines ever said: "I'm just gonna wander down that lonely, deserted street, and get my bag." He even sounds unsure of himself saying it.
- Innocent Bigot: Unlike Herbert Moon, who hates practically everybody, MacDougal is for the most part an Upper-Class Twit who believes in crackpot theories and idiotic science and doesn't seem to really bear the natives any ill will.
- 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.
- The Stoner: Almost always tweaked out on cocaine.
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".
- Never Heard That One Before: His reaction to Prof. MacDougal's attempt to communicate with him has a hint of this.
- Nice Guy: Easily one of the most decent and pleasant people John meets in the game.
- Only Sane Man: Along with John. In fact, he's one of the most decent people he works with.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Sadly, he only appears in three missions, the last of which has him taking a bullet to the face. Then, in Undead Nightmare, he was zombified before you even have a chance to meet him.
Dutch van der Linde
John's former mentor, and Ross's main target.
- Alas, Poor Villain: His death is one of the saddest moments in the game.
- 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.
- Arc Villain: Of the West Elizabeth arc.
- Ax-Crazy: It's pretty clear when you meet him that all is not well upstairs.
- Big Bad Ensemble: With Edgar Ross. While Ross is the active threat to the Marstons, is Dutch the main target and the one who raised John as a part of his gang.
- Blood Knight: By his own admission. He barely believes in the causes he fights for anymore, but keeps killing because it's all he knows how to do.
- Bomb Throwing Anarchist
- Despair Event Horizon: Went past this a long time ago.
- Despair Speech: Gives one right before throwing himself off of a cliff.Dutch: When I'm gone, they'll just find another monster. They have to, because they have to justify their wages. Our time has passed, John.
- Disc One Final Boss
- Driven to Suicide
- Evil Former Friend
- Evil Genius: According to John, he always has a plan.
- Expy: Bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Lee Van Cleef. Their names are even quite similar.
- Fallen Hero: John believes that he was a good man - "was" being the key word.
- The Fatalist: He becomes one right before his death.
- Foil: To Edgar Ross. 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 their 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.
- 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.
- Just Like Robin Hood: A long time ago.
- Kick the Dog: The second time we see him, he holds a bank hostage and shoots some poor innocent woman in the head in front of John just to spite him.
- Mighty Whitey: A villainous version. He leads the local Native Americans in a pointless guerilla war against civilization.
- Parental Substitute: Was this to the rest of the original gang.
- Social Darwinist: One who is willing to die to make sure that his ideals become reality.
- Sociopathic Hero: In his own mind he is.
- Softspoken Sadist: His voice is actually pretty innocuous, but he certainly isn't.
- Tragic Villain/Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In the end, it's revealed that he's just a sad man with not much else to live for.
- Trigger Happy
- Wicked Cultured: Considering that he taught John how to read, Dutch is probably rather well educated for his time. Also, when exploring his lair you can find a well-stocked bookshelf and a typewriter.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Formerly. John believed that when Dutch realized that no matter how hard he fought, he could never make a real difference in the world, he snapped.
John's wife. A former prostitute who used to "work" with John's old gang before they got married.
- Action Girl
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Shows hints of this whenever Bonnie is mentioned, though it's mostly sarcastic.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Determined Homesteader's Wife: Literally. Implied to have become a Determined Widow after John died, as she kept their ranch running and raised Jack, even with her illness.
- Happily Married: With John.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: What she was before marrying John.
- Ill Girl: She can be heard coughing heavily in gameplay. She also dies not long after John.
- Lethal Chef: At least in John's opinion.
- Never Learned to Read: The only illiterate member of the Marston family.
- Vitriolic Married Couple: She and John are quite sarcastic around each other, but are still very much in love.
The son of John and Abigail Marston. He becomes the player character after "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed".''
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: You play as him after the "final" mission.
- Badass Bookworm: He's a literary scholar who wanted to be a writer. He's also an outlaw because he wanted vengeance for John's death.
- Best Served Cold: It takes three years, but he does avenge John's death by filling Ross with lead.
- Broken Bird: A lot of Jack's dialogue in combat remarks on how little he has left to live for. The three years since John's death have done much to erode his idealism.
- The Drifter: After the events of the game, he abandoned the ranch.
- Drowning My Sorrows: It's implied in one side quest that he's become a very heavy drinker.
- The Eeyore: Granted, losing your father to an unscrupulous government agent and having his mother die three years later when you're a teenager will do that to you.
- Expy: He looks a lot like Inigo Montoya. Now, what are both characters' motivations?
- Fastest Gun in the West: Just like pa. It's implied that Landon Ricketts taught Jack everything he knows before his death.
- Generation Xerox: He not only has his father's sharpshooting skills, but has his equipment as well.
- Genius Bruiser: As mentioned above, he's a literary scholar who happens to be a vengeance-driven outlaw.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: He got these from a bear he tried to hunt on his own.
- I Coulda Been a Contender!: Had dreams of being a writer, but his family's death seems to have ended any hopes and dreams he had for the future. Apparently zig zagged, if the book titled "Red Dead" by J. Marston that you can find in Grand Theft Auto V counts as canon and not just an Easter Egg.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: His name is John Marston, Jr, but everyone calls him Jack.
- Last of His Kind: Last living Marston, and fitting in the game's theme of the end of the Western era, one of the few Western gunslingers left by the game's end, if not the very last one.
- Like Father, Like Son: He couldn't be any more similar to John if he tried.
- Meaningful Name: Because Jack is usually a nickname for John, he's likely named after his father, symbolizing his eventual fate of becoming an outlaw like John.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Massively deconstructed. Before John's death, Jack was a kindly, idealistic young man with dreams of being a writer. In the epilogue where you play as Jack, it's revealed that he's become a jaded outlaw who drifts from place to place, haunted by his past, and ultimately has very little reason to live. In short, Jack ended up becoming everything his father didn't want him to be. And just to drive it further, even if Jack does manage to get his revenge, Ross is remembered by the masses as a hero who brought some dangerous criminals to justice, John is remembered as a brutal outlaw who learned the hard way that justice is inescapable, and Jack spends the rest of his days as a depressed, wandering loner with his life completely ruined. There is no happy ending for Red Dead Redemption. However, considering that you can find a book titled Red Dead by J. Marston in Grand Theft Auto V, it's possible that Jack managed to find some peace and become a writer after the events of the game.
- Son of a Whore: Just like his father.
- Supporting Protagonist: Once Marston dies, he's the playable character.
- 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.
- Took a Level in Cynic: John's death and the three hard years that followed turned him from an aspiring writer into a remorseless killer. However, he can remain a good man at heart if the player so desires.
- Turn Out Like His Father: By killing Ross, Jack becomes an outlaw like his father, who didn't wish for him to become one.
- Vengeance Feels Empty: In contrast to John, there isn't much that motivates Jack, outside of exacting vengeance on Ross. When he accomplishes exactly that, he goes back to his aimless career as an outlaw.
- You Killed My Father: So he kills Ross back. And if the player wants, his wife and brother as well.
- Young Gun: When he fights with his father against the US Army, and later presumably trained by Landon Ricketts.
- Younger Than They Look: After the Time Skip, no one can tell he's nineteen. Gameplay wise this is due to the devs reusing John's character model and modifying his face to look somewhat different.
An aging alcoholic and reformed thief who resides with and is provided food and shelter by the Marston family in exchange for work he rarely performs.
- Butt Monkey: Uncle is the target of a lot of John's abuse (which can be justified, since Uncle can be pretty lazy at keeping up with his responsibilities within the Marston family ranch).
- Grumpy Old Man: Comes off as this in most of his appearances. Justified since John isn't very nice to him either.
- Hidden Depths: Despite his supposed laziness and being a very frequent target of John for it, he ultimately gives his life to help protect the Marstons.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He dies defending the Marston family from the US Army (led by Edgar Ross) who storm in the ranch to kill John.
- Older Sidekick: To John during the latter half of the West Elizabeth Arc.
- Retired Outlaw: Was a thief in his younger years.
Minor characters and strangers
A Serial Killer who lives in the wilderness by himself and who serves as the culprit behind a string of serial murders and disappearances.
- Ax-Crazy: And how. His maniacal personality is downright frightening.
- For the Evulz: His main reason. He's by far the most depraved character in the game.
- I Am A Humanitarian: He's a cannibalistic Serial Killer.
- Faux Affably Evil: To John. Or Jack, in case you've finished the game.
- Karma Houdini: If you let him live.
- Laser-Guided Karma: If you kill him.
- Laughing Mad
- Psychopathic Man Child
- Serial Killer: He is responsible for a lot of disappearances.
- The Sociopath: In the highest order possible.
- Would Hurt a Child
An eccentric early filmmaker who has John help him bring the budding motion picture industry to New Austin. He also appears in Undead Nightmare, where he sees the undead apocalypse as an opportunity to make a blockbuster movie and has John help him get undead to "act" in his film. What could possibly go wrong?
- Early Films: He embodies this era.
- Large Ham: And he knows it.
- Punny Name: His initials and last name are a play on the term Deus ex Machina.
- Too Dumb to Live: In Undead Nightmare, he uses the undead apocalypse as an opportunity to make a film and is using undead as his "actors". He already has one tied up, but has John find him another one, and once he has both zombies, he releases them and starts filming them. It doesn't take a genius to guess what's happens next.
The anti-Semitic and racist Armadillo shopkeeper.
- Ascended Extra: In the main game, he's simply a shopkeeper with a penchant for blaming everything on Jews and screaming his name. In Undead Nightmare, he gets a cutscene where he expresses hatred for nearly everyone that isn't a white American male, even though he's never actually met most other ethnicities.
- Asshole Victim: Nothing stopping you from tying him up and leaving him on the rail tracks if you ever get tired of his racism. And you will.
- In Undead Nightmare, he is killed by zombies after going into a xenophobic rant.
- Conspiracy Theorist: He sometimes states that the Jews killed Abraham Lincoln, stating that it's why there's a triangle on the dollar bill.
- In Undead Nightmare he blames the Zombies on the "Jewish British Catholic Homosexual elites", an accusation that leaves John somewhat baffled.
- Dumbass Has a Point: His views on Abraham Reyes are perhaps the only insightful comments he makes.
- Hates Everyone Equally: In Undead Nightmare, he seems to hate pretty much everyone that isn't Herbert Moon, even though he's never met them.
- Large Ham: "HERBERT MOOOOOOOOOOON!"
- Say My Name: He really likes hearing his own name.
- Sarcasm-Blind: He seems to not pick up that John's just being sarcastic with him.
- Shopkeeper: Of Armadillo
A mysterious stranger that seems to follow John throughout the latter's journey. He sends John on a series of bizarre quests, seemingly to test John's character.
- Angel Unaware: The strange man doesn't seem to be entirely human. He knows a startling amount of John's personal history despite John having no recollection of ever meeting him in the past, knows of events occurring miles away from his location, and in their final encounter, proves impervious to gunfire and vanishes without a trace. Whether he is an example of God Was My Copilot or Louis Cypher is never made clear.
- Cryptic Conversation: When the topic of his identity or how he came to know so much about John is brought up, he always skirts around the question with vague, mildly threatening Non Answers.
- Harbinger of Impending Doom: In his last encounter with John, he is seen standing by a tree overlooking John's ranch at Beecher's Hope. He cryptically tells John that it's "a beautiful spot". In the Playable Epilogue, it's the plot in which John, Abigail, and Uncle are buried after the US Army's attack on the ranch.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: He wears an immaculate three-piece suit with top hat and sports a neatly-trimmed mustache despite the fact that he is always encountered somewhere in the wilderness.
- Trouble Entendre: Some of his responses to John's questions and demands sound like thinly-veiled threats to John's wellbeing. In light of John's death occurring shortly after their final encounter, they seem eerily prescient. Some examples follow:John: I'll let the appropriate authorities judge my morality, friend.
Strange Man: Yes you will, and they shall.John: Tell me your name, or I won't be responsible for my actions.
Strange Man: Oh, but you will. You will be responsible. This is a fine spot. See you around, cowboy.
- What You Are in the Dark: The main idea behind his instructions for John. First, he makes John choose between dissuading a bar patron from cheating on their wife with a prostitute, or encouraging them to do it. Next, he lets John pick between donating to the Mother Superior's cause, or stealing her collection box. It is up to the player to decide which choice is more appropriate in both situations, with John's honor increasing or decreasing accordingly.
The most senior nun at Las Hermanas. While she's a very minor character in the main game, Undead Nightmare sees her playing a very central role.