You should theoretically be safe in your camp as it's designated a safe zone. Note the flag. If the flag is raised, you're protected. If you're doing missions, it will be lowered. I say theoretically, because I've had times where players managed to still kill me by using fire bottles. Another thing you can do is set yourself to defensive mode. Do that by going to the online menu, scroll down until you see online options, select that and scroll down to see which mode you're in. Clicking it will change it. Most of the time, it helps as it lowers the damage you get, but people can still be dicks and attack you unprovoked. A few days ago, for instance, I was riding around St Denis when someone took a shotgun to my face and killed me, so quickly that I hadn't even had time to defend myself. When that happens, an option will usually come up to parley with the offender. That puts them in a timeout against you for 15 min. At this point, they'll usually get bored and leave the session.
Yes, be careful around towns. There will often be gunfights among players who are causing a ruckus, and they'll sometimes attack random players just for kicks. It's best to try to avoid them as much as possible, but sometimes it can't be avoided. There are also settings for your horse, such as who can touch it and your cargo, and you should set it to only yourself for the time being. One of the annoying things is that players can lasso you off your horse and tie you up. But don't worry, you can't lose your stuff. There are hardly any negatives. You just dust yourself off and move on. About the only thing you might lose would be carcasses on your horse, something which can be remedied by buying a trader wagon when you're high enough with that profession. It really helps as you can store anything you've shot in there, up to 5 big carcasses, and between sessions. Normally, if you get disconnected, you'll lose anything on your horse. And speaking of the trader profession, it's the easiest to start with and you can make some pretty good money, especially at later levels.
If I were playing it on PC, I'd join up with you and help you get started. I find it to be a relaxing game. As you level up and get enough gold, you'll have enough to dip your toes into the other roles, ie you're not limited to just one role, which helps with getting more income. The big downside of the PC version though are the modders who have been messing with players in-game. It got so bad at one point, as Rockstar had to intervene after modders were using KKK models to torment players.
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