Item discovery is a hidden stat in Dark Souls 2 that represents the rate at which you discover items. It was a normal stat displayed on your character screen in Dark Souls that was adjusted due to different factors like items you wore and whether you were human or hollow. In Dark Souls II the amount of item discovery you have is hidden from view but there are certain items that display that they increase your item discovery.

Update: see full-scale test results here.

The actual amount each item increases item discovery is:

Prisoner's Hood = 10
Traveling Merchant Hat = 25
Jester's Cap = 50
Symbol of Avarice = 100 (also increases soul absorption, but you gradually lose health
(5 per second, can be reduced with the Ring of Restoration and Charred Loyce Shields))
Prisoner's Tatters = 15
Watchdragon Parma = 50 as of patch 1.10
Covetous Gold Serpent Ring = 50
Covetous Gold Serpent Ring+1 = 75
Covetous Gold Serpent Ring+2 = 100
Rusted Coin = 100

Burning Bonfire Ascetic will increase item discovery on enemies in that area. The increase begins at +150 for bonfire intensity 2 and caps at +375 for bonfire intensity 8.

They all stack. These are just base points that are used in item discovery calculation. They do not represent percent of item discovery increase.
So best stack is Symbol of Avarice + Covetous Gold Serpent Ring+2 + Prisoner's Tatters + Watchdragon Parma + Rusted Coin + Bonfire Intensity 8 = 740
Nearly all enemies in game (except bosses, and also known - hollows in Things Betwixt) can have up to 10 possible drop items. It looks like item discovery only affects whether you will get a drop or not. The higher your item discovery, the more chance you will get a drop.
All items have the same rate of drop (no different specified). Just a random number is used to select a drop item from the list of drop items assigned to enemy.
If this random number is higher than your item discovery then you don't get any drop at all.
Random number can be between 0 and 10000.
Total item discovery is calculated as follows in 10 maximum steps (they also equal to drop tiers):
Let's call your additional item discovery from equipped items as "addition".
Formula is tested on Hollow Infantry. If your addition = 100 like from Symbol of Avarice:
1: 150 + addition +
2: 150 + addition +
3: 150 + addition +
4: 150 + addition +
5: 150 + addition +
6: 150 + addition +
7: 700 + addition +
8: 500 + addition
then you will get 2900 in total.
If your addition is 265 (all from items) then you will get 4220.
Sometimes it is:
1: 150 + addition +
2: 150 + addition +
3: 150 + addition +
4: 150 + addition +
5: 100 + addition +
6: 400 + addition +
7: 100 + addition
And so on.
It seems that formula is based on the enemy you kill. If enemy drop rate should be more rare then formula addition steps are lowered and base numbers at the end are lowered too. But your "addition" is always same as you have from equipped items.
Now let's say your random number generated as 1000.
Then (150 + 100) + (150 + 100) + (150 + 100) + (150 + 100) = 1000
Once sum of tiers becomes higher or equal to random number then addition stops. And you get the index of your drop that can be from 0 to 9 (10 total).
In our example you will get 3 (+1 +1 +1 then stop before 4th +1).
Index 3 is 4th item in drop items list (counting from 0).
If it is first Infantry in the Forest o Fallen Giants that has these drops:
Hollow Infantry Helm
Hollow Infantry Armor
Hollow Infantry Gloves
Hollow Infantry Boots
Bandit's Knife
Throwing Knife
then you will get Hollow Infantry Boots as drop.
Some items will only be dropped by an enemy once. For example if you kill a falconer and it drops the falconer gloves that falconer will never drop the falconer gloves again until you enter a new NG cycle either by beating the game or using a Bonfire Ascetic. This will increase the drop rate of the other items when killing this individual falconer.

Soul memory and currently collected souls do not affect item discovery calculation / drop.
Human/hollow form does not affect item discovery.
It looks like item discovery is lowered for enemy after you kill same enemy multiple times (after respawn). (Tried to kill enemy, then die, then kill respawned, then die ... and item discovery is lowered - human/hollow does not affect). ( I can too confirm this, in SOTFS. I was farming the respawning heide knight's and got less drops over time. Over a timespan of about 6~ hours.)
All tested on Forest of Giants
Have not checked but believe being sinner or not does not affect item discovery.

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    • Anonymous

      As a casual player, this explanation about how item discovery works just makes my head hurt. Having the numbers so people who know math well is great, but what about us stupid people? A simpler summary would be nice, as I had to look through several comments to make any sense of this.

      • Anonymous

        There's something missing here about multiple drops.

        If the item that drops is generated from a random number. 0-10,000.

        [. Paragraph. ]

        So if an enemy has 10 items or tiers to drop that is 10 steps. Is Thier base drop rate is 100 on each item that would means you would get a drop at any RNG under 1000, at 900 you'd get item 9.
        How is then Do you get both items 8 and 9 or possibly more?

        [ Paragraph. ]

        Also if the item drop rates are equal why do the tiers have different sizes? In your first example Tier 7 had a base of 700! This would give tier 7 a higher chance to show over the others contradicting what is written.

        • Anonymous

          a little tip on farming (SOFTS PC).
          - this happened to me during dragon scale farming at imperfect lair. I'm using lightning greatsword+10 + sunlight blade + farming gears. During farming, when nothing dropped from imperfects after some time (5-6 imperfects in a row), I changed my weapon to powerstancing dark large club+10 & lightning greatsword+10, the first imperfect i kill with these weapons drop a scale & after a while not getting any drop as before, I changed back to 2h greatsword & i got scale from the first kill. same thing happened when farming at dragon shrine, it seems, drop rate depends on your weapon/s, if you use same weapon, the drop rate will decrease.
          - reloading the area also seem to help increase the drop rate

          • Anonymous

            If you don't have enough stats for the Jester's Cap (like less dexterity than it requires), do you still get the item discovery bonus?

            • Anonymous

              Actually, this is controlled by a demon within the game's code; said demon will read your mind when you are about to farm (getting unexpected item drops don't count since you are not interested or thinking about it) and it will erase a desired item from the drop list. Want that cool sword worn by X enemy? you'll only get helmets, shields, a comically large quantity of trash... but not your desired sword

              Trust me, my dad works for From

              • Anonymous

                It says here that killing an enemy over and over will decrease it's "chances" do drop something from it's drop table. Is this hidden decrease nullified if i'm in the company of champions?

                • Anonymous

                  Item discovery is like a giant wheel of fortune.

                  There are 10,000 possible spots on the wheel for the needle to land, and each item the enemy drops gets its own little wedge.
                  You only get an item if the needle stops on that wedge, if it stops on a blank space you get nothing.

                  These wedges are a default size + the size of your item discovery, so putting on item discovery gear or crushing a coin always increases your chance to get what you want - it makes all wedges bigger and only makes the blank space smaller.

                  Not all item discovery sources stack, though. Prisoner's Tatters doesn't stack with helmets except for the Prisoner's Cloak, using more than one Rusted Coin is worse than just one.
                  Best gear is Gold Serpent Ring, one Rusted Coin, Mimic Head (Jester's Cap is you don't like the HP loss), and Watch Dragon Parma. This will only about double your chances of getting items though, so it isn't really worth it to go out of your way to get all 4 if you already have 2-3.

                  • Anonymous

                    Looking at this jumble of words and how they’re explaining it.

                    It’s best to describe it as loot box tiers.

                    Everyone starts with a common loot box chance. Getting the most basic items at first.

                    And when you want their better items, you gotta increase the Item Discovery to unlock their rare loot box set. It gives a chance to get their rarer gear and items but you still could get their common items.

                    Maxing our your item discovery gets you the chance for legendary gear, but it also still gives you rare and common.

                    That’s the gist of what I gathered.

                    Hopefully this explanation helps.

                    • Anonymous

                      Bonfire Intensity also increases Item Discovery. It starts at a bonus of 150 for the area at Intensity 2 and goes up to a bonus of 375 at Intensity 8

                      • Anonymous

                        This is so poorly explained that I feel like it'd be easier to test it all myself than to try to understand it from this description. Especially the line "All items have the same rate of drop (no different specified)." and what then appears to be a list of drops with different default rates. Are you saying individual ITEMS have the same drop rate regardless of the creature it drops from? Let me see if I understand correctly, and maybe explain it 4x better, if I'm right: Each item has a drop rate, which is an integer value. Your item discovery bonus is added to EACH item's drop rate. The range values are then just stacked on each other, starting at 1. A random integer from 1-10,000 is selected. An item drops if the value is is the item drop's range.

                        • Anonymous

                          I don't want to be late to the party but... I have the feeling I get more drops when ONLY wearing the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring +1 then a whole set consisting also of gear like jester's cap and hollow prisoners tatters. That post seem to confirm my beliefs. I could be totally wrong but hey... No one is reading it anyways seeing everyone moved on............

                          • Anonymous

                            Wtf is the addition? It is 365 total with all the pieces that gives most Item Discovery included. So it is Covetous Gold Serpent Ring +2: 100 Symbol of Avarice: 100 Prisoner's Tatters: 15 Watchdragon Parma: 50 Rusted Coin: 100 =365.

                            • Anonymous

                              So, this page says all item discovery gear stack and that it only affects general drop percentage, not the items you get. But then at the top it links to a page with a lot of numbers and graphs that appears to claim that some of the equipment will override each other, and that having very high item discovery may result in less drops since it prioritizes the rarer ones. So, I'm a bit confused now. Why does this article cite one that seems to directly contradict it?

                              • Anonymous

                                Could anyone give me some sunlight medals for me to rank up to rank 3 of the Heirs Sunlight Spear is all i need for the Miracle Trophy

                                • Regarding the idea of poison farming i dont think its a good idea but if you have to id say get 2 channeler's tridents and infuse with poison and get the rat coventat ring and powerstance those suckers -> boom you now have instant poisoning with good range.Kite a group of mobs through a doorway or round a corner and they should group up nicelly.
                                  afflict them with poison and switch to the shields. Or do the same trick but with poison cloud.
                                  ..... But really, blasting them with soulspeard / Demon hammer / w.e. one hits them will be much more time efficient. There is always bonfire ascetic if you run out of mobs and you can infact farm as a phantom.

                                  • Anonymous

                                    Yea some of the writer's article might not be entirely accurate, but I don't see you fools hopping in and editing. That being said, this would work best if you were to swap a single clothing item out with the Butterfly poison set. Therefore, you can hold TWO parms, still have crap loads of discovery, and poison kill every enemy. All you need to do is ROLL ROLL ROLL YOUR ROLLS GENTLY THROUGH THE LOLS

                                    • Anonymous

                                      technically speaking you could get more than that amount by killing enemies with poison. IE equiping a parma in both hands, poisoning an enemy, then before it dies from poison swap to have a parma in both hands.

                                      • Anonymous

                                        I wonder if you could equip two parma's, and use a desired weapon to fight something, and when it dies quickly switch to the shield. Then, you could have two active. I know this works when you want to get souls out of certain things like bosses, and Invaders, so I wonder if it would work on farming to. Kill something, and quickly switch to the shield. Potentially, you could get a higher drop rate.

                                        • Anonymous

                                          I also found from farming bonfire astetics that you lose a lot of your percentage of loot drop if you are lower on health. Tried with the symbol and compared with the jester and found a much higher drop rate with the jester cap so check your facts a little better n get out into the world of Dark Souls

                                          • Anonymous

                                            Being a sinner has no effect on item discovery anywhere in the world plus two parmas is extremely unconventional and would make the farming task a lot more tedious

                                            • Anonymous

                                              It might not be very efficient, but if you daul-wielded 2 Dragon Parmas with the other max discovery items wouldn't that make it the potentially highest discov. set?

                                              • I'm sorry but can you post up info how you came up with this info etc. allot of people are going to be EXTREMLY skeptical of all your info period without backing of the codes and work you're doing.

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