Helpful walrus
New World Programmer

Hello everyone!

Many of you have asked about the nuances of the High Watermark System, and I'm here to help!

If you don't know what the High Watermark System (HWM) does, it's a system that triggers when your character reaches level 60 and ultimately regulates the power of falling items as you venture into more dangerous areas of the world and fight powerful enemies.

When an enemy or container drops a piece of equipment for you, it is counted on its equipment score (GS). As you level up, this GS naturally progresses with your level, so as long as you fight enemies at your level or higher, you get dips that are in a power range that's good for your level.

When you reach the maximum level, this mechanic will change a bit. At 60, you gain an upper limit of GS (HWM) for drops that gradually increases as stronger drops appear. This upper limit is for the item type. In the case of armor, it is based on the type of slot (e.g., head armor, chest armor, ring, etc.), and in the case of weapons, it is based on the type of weapon (e.g., sword, hammer, musket, etc.)
Only item drops affect HWM. The moment an item drops, your corresponding HWM will be increased - you don't even need to pick up the item. Crafting an item or buying it at a Trading Post won't make you grow, but it can be a great way to give yourself an edge in finding more powerful gear in more dangerous areas of the game.

In the HWM system, not all enemies and containers (including the rewards containers for the Outpost Rush, Wars, Invasions, etc.) event are created equal. While you always have a small chance to see a HWM increase after defeating a level 60+ creature or searching a container at a level 60+ landmark, any level above 60 has a soft upper HWM increase probability limit. Likewise, event reward containers will respect your current HWM, and also have a small chance of increasing it. This means that while you will reliably see your HWM increase to a GS 530 after defeating enemies at level 61, your chances of seeing anything beyond a level 61 GS 530 from an enemy are much lower than for a level 62 enemy. Enemies at level 64+ are in able to reliably dump equipment into the GS 600.

The system is not completely random either. Every time you defeat an enemy at level 60+ and don't receive a piece of equipment that increases their HWM type, the next time you are slightly more likely to notice an increase. Additionally, some enemies, such as those from Elite Landmarks and Expeditions, have a higher base chance of dropping items that increase your HWM. Named enemies at level 60+ are even more likely to drop HWM-boosting items, and Expedition Bosses always drop an item that increases HWM.

Some of you may find that competing for drops from powerful enemies in the open world is suboptimal in crowded areas, and you are right. When many different groups attack the same enemy, there is less chance that these groups will see declines.

If you want to maximize your chances of increasing your HWM in a more controlled environment, Expeditions is a great way to do it. Garden of Genesis and Lazarus Instrumentality are full of elite monsters to fight, and the bosses are guaranteed to see an increase every time they drop an item for you.

We know that creating Tuning Balls for these Expeditions is particularly time consuming at the moment, so we are in the process of adjusting the requirements for creating Expedition Tuning Balls. We expect to release an update to the crafting requirements for Tuning Bullets in November, after checking for changes, so keep an eye out for the update notes!

See you at Aeternum!

Edit: Added additional clarifications regarding reward containers from Outpost Storm, War, Invasion, Breach etc.


- CommanderAze