In the video above (also here on YouTube) you can see me in Red Dead Online, standing outside the Valentine gunsmith and cleaning off my weapon so I could shop for upgrade components. As I finished wiping the grime from my carbine repeater, I saw a spark run up my character's back, as if a dynamite fuse had been woven into my leather coat. A couple splinters of wood showered down around me and I heard a few nearby NPCs call out in surprise.
I put away my repeater and looked around as explosions and sparks began consuming my torso. For .0003 seconds I thought it might be a glitch, because in the few hours I'd been playing Red Dead Online that night, I'd had a bounty who was tied to the back of my horse suddenly vanish and a trader delivery mission give me an infinite loading screen. Red Dead Online has plenty of glitches.
But as my clothing continued to sizzle and smoke I knew it wasn't a glitch. As the violent fireworks reached my bowler-hatted head I abruptly died, killed by a player named Wizard42541. Red Dead Online has glitches, but it also has hackers.
I respawned in the woods outside Valentine and immediately burst into a shower of sparks again, though they stopped before I was completely roasted. I ran back to the gunsmith's and looked around, spotting Wizard pretending to examine a wanted poster.
A moment later another barrage of sparks and explosions engulfed me and I flopped dead on top of my original corpse. I basically felt like Daffy Duck at this point, charred and covered in soot with my beak spinning in circles around my head. I half-expected Wizard to turn to camera, take a bite out of a carrot, and say "Ain't I a stinker?"
I spawned again in the woods, sparkled like a Roman candle, then quickly died again. I called for parley, which prevents a hostile player harming you for a few minutes, then ran back into town.
But there I discovered the hacker was completely immune to parleys. While I stood inside the gunsmiths trying to price weapon components, Wizard lit the entire place up like a fireworks factory, eventually blowing me out the back door—unfortunately, I don't have footage of this hack-attack, but you can see in the screenshot below that even the gunsmith had third degree burns and the shop is a splintered mess.
A few minutes later I found Wizard in the saloon, knocking back shots and waving happily to me. Thanks to the parley I instituted, I couldn't put a few holes in Wizard's head, so I left and rode around for a while, then galloped back to Valentine as night fell and the parley ended.
Spotting Wizard near the butcher shop, I raced over and used my Deadeye ability to unload a few shots from my Navy revolver (then angrily put a few more into an unfortunately placed telephone pole) before giving up and just trying to beat the shit out of the hacker. I tackled, I kicked, I pistol-whipped, but the hacker teleported (or just glitched) behind me and then vanished.
I waited a while but while Wizard remained in the session they seemed to have abandoned Valentine, so I did what anyone else would do—reported them as a cheater in the hopes they get banned (and then, still annoyed about it the next morning, wrote this article about it).
I'm pretty sure this isn't some next-level hacking: it's probably just a singleplayer mod someone figured out how to use online. I'm not sure why someone would risk their entire account just to mess with another player like this—I've had plenty of cowboys assault me with Red Dead's standard weapons and end up being just as annoyingly deadly as this aptly-named Wizard was.
So stay alert out there, cowpokes! There aren't just gangs, feds, and cougars out there looking to bring you down. There are a few magic users, too.