Many of you have been asking 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 kicks in when your character reaches level 60 and ultimately governs the power of gear drops you receive as you venture into the more dangerous areas of the world and fight powerful enemies.
When an enemy or container drops a piece of gear for you, it rolls on its Gear Score (GS). During your leveling experience, this GS naturally progresses with your level, so as long as you’re fighting enemies at or above your level, you’re getting drops that are in a power range that is good for your level.
When you reach the level cap, this mechanic changes a bit. At 60, you gain an upper GS limit (HWM) on drops that gradually increases as more powerful drops appear for you. This upper limit is per-item-type. For armor, it’s based on the slot type (e.g. head armor, chest armor, ring, etc.) and for weapons it is based on weapon type (e.g. sword, hammer, musket, etc.)
Only item drops affect your HWM. The moment the item drops, your relevant HWM is increased – you don’t even need to pick the item up. Crafting an item or buying one from the Trading Post will not give you an increase, but it can be a great way to give yourself an edge in search of more powerful gear in the more dangerous areas of the game.
Not all enemies and containers (including Event Reward Containers from Outpost Rush, War, Invasions, etc.) are created equal in the case of the HWM system. While you always have a small chance to see a HWM increase when defeating a level 60+ creature or searching a container in a level 60+ landmark, each level beyond 60 has a soft upper limit on the likelihood of an HWM increase. Similarly, Event Reward Containers will respect your current HWM and also have a small chance of increasing it. What this means is that while you’ll reliably see HWM increases up to GS 530 when defeating Level 61 enemies, your chances of seeing something beyond GS 530 from a Level 61 enemy is significantly lower than it is from a Level 62 enemy. Level 64+ enemies are capable of reliably dropping gear up to GS 600.
The system isn’t fully random, either. Each time you defeat a level 60+ enemy and don’t receive a gear item that increases its HWM type, you’re slightly more likely to see an increase the next time. Additionally, some enemies, such as those found in Elite Landmarks and Expeditions, have a higher base chance of dropping items that increase your HWM. Level 60+ named enemies are even more likely to drop HWM-increasing items, and Expedition Bosses will always drop an item that increases your HWM.
Some of you may feel that competing for drops from powerful enemies in the open world is suboptimal in crowded areas, and you’re right. When lots of disparate groups are all attacking the same enemy, there is a smaller chance that those groups will see drops.
If you want to maximize your chances of getting HWM increases in a more controlled environment, Expeditions are a great way to do it. Garden of Genesis and Lazarus Instrumentality are full of elite monsters to fight, and the bosses guarantee that you’ll see an increase every time they drop a gear item for you.
We know that Tuning Orbs for those Expeditions are particularly time-consuming to craft right now, so we’re in the process of adjusting Expedition Tuning Orb crafting requirements. We expect to release an update to the crafting requirements for Tuning Orbs sometime in November after we have vetted the changes, so keep an eye on the update notes!
See you in Aeternum!
Edit: Added additional clarification about reward containers from Outpost Rush, War, Invasion, Breaches, etc.