Don’t Explore (Yet)
While the first few hours are more about introducing you to the characters and mechanics of the game, there are a few things you should know before taking control of old Arthur: First, don’t try to leave your first camp. The weather outside of your shelter in Colter is too harsh to survive in.
Steal From the Dead
Money is a resource you’ll desperately need early on, and the best way to get it is to loot every single enemy you run into in these opening missions. This is essentially your only way to earn money at first, but your options widen considerably once you reach the full open world.
Bring a Jacket
Once you start chapter two, you’re free to go almost anywhere in the open world. Your adventures may take you back up into the mountains, so you’ll want to make sure you have some warm weather gear with you.
You can throw a spare set of clothes – or two or three – in your saddle bag by going to your camp and interacting with the footlocker in your tent. Pick an outfit or clothes that will keep you warm and select Store Outfit on Horse. When you’re out in the world you can change clothes from your horse menu.
(Another) Trusty Steed
Once you’ve bonded a bit with your horse, consider leaving it in a stable and purchasing or… acquiring… another faithful steed.
It’s helpful to have at least two on hand so you won’t have to start a brand new bond in the event of an… accident.
Once you’ve explored around Valentine a bit, you’ll want to start adding gear to your arsenal. You’ll notice that most weapons are locked off from purchase in the gunsmith’s catalogue – that’s because you’ve got to find these weapons out in the world before you can purchase them.
The best way to get some powerful new hardware early on is by robbing homesteads or back room business run by other gangs. You can find these businesses by exploring town and keeping an eye out for any strange goings on.
What’s Up, Doc?
The first back room business you can find is at the Doctor’s Office in Valentine. Peer through the back window or eavesdrop at the back door to unlock the activity.
You’ll have to go in through the front door and threaten the doctor, but once he gets the O’Driscolls in the back to open up, rush in, take them out, and grab the cash and Schofield Revolver off the table. You’ll need to do this quickly before the law shows up to ruin your good time.
Little B&E on the Prairie
Homesteads are similar activities that you can get tipped off to or find on your own, where a local gang or group of crazies are holed up in a local house.
At the western foot of Mount Shan you’ll find the territory of a Legendary Buck – hunt it down and bring its antler back to the fence and craft the Buck Antler Trinket. This will improve the quality of all of the pelts you skin while hunting, making it way easier to craft upgrades and new items.
Head into the ruined Sheriff’s Office and pull out the lock box under the desk to find a gold bar worth $500. You won’t be able to sell it until you unlock the Fence, but hey, free money is free money.
Upgrade Your Camp
The first is to Dutch’s tent, which then unlocks the second – actually important – upgrade.
Upgrading Arthur’s tent & wagon will unlock a map that allows you to fast travel to any settlement you’ve previously discovered.
If fast travel isn’t your speed and you’d rather explore for yourself, keep any eye out for other less fortunate travelers along the way.
Many, like the poor sap who gets himself bit by a snake or a hunter with his leg caught in a trap, might be so grateful for your help that they’ll tell you the location of one of those homesteads or back rooms from earlier. They might even treat you to an item of your choice from a local shop the next time they see you in town.