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Are having bounties on you unavoidable or would the gameplay be too boring if you’re not doing things to earn them?
Sometimes the plot of the game forces you into having bounties. After all, you’re a gang of outlaws. So you will have missions where you rob banks and such, where you obviously pick up a bounty.
But the larger portion of the game, you can definitely avoid getting a bounty. You can play the game largely as a pacifist if you want. If you bump into someone and they threaten you, or you stumble upon someone who is hostile towards you, you’re given the option to antagonize or defuse. 90% of the time defusing the situation works, and you can simply walk away. Even if you do pick up a bounty, most times it’s easy to pay it off with the money you have on you. Unless you go on a major killing spree.
The bounties are also dependent on where you commit a crime, and who sees you doing it. If you punch someone in the middle of a big city with hundreds of people around, you’re going to have tons of witnesses who will report you to the police.
However, if you are riding out in the country, and you see a wagon that you want to steal, you can just kill the people on it and take it. No witnesses, no bounty. The only penalty is your honor will go down.
Even if you are out in the country and someone does happen to see you commit a crime, your screen will flash alerting you that someone witnessed you commit a crime. You can chase them down and threaten them into silence, or simply kill them too. You can also wear a bandana to hide your face. Witnesses will have a tougher time identifying you, so if you want to just make a break for it before they are able to get a good look at you, you won’t get a bounty.
Yes, you can actually go most of the game without picking up significant bounties if you’re smart about your crimes and where you commit them.
However, sometimes the story does force you to have some significant bounties.