Now that the New World launch crush has settled down and Amazon is focused on playing whack-a-mole with exploits, players are finding enough leisure time to ask the really important questions, such as: What if I killed a thousand boars and tracked the drop rates to reverse-engineer how the luck stat works?
On Reddit (opens in new tab), user SkyLineOW explains that the accepted theory of luck is that it acts something like a D&D skill check modifier. To determine what kind of loot you get from a drop, a 100,000-sided die is rolled (usually), and your luck score is added to the result as a bonus. So, if you have 1,000 luck, the lowest you can roll is 1,000 (an unlucky zero plus your bonus) and the highest is 101,000 (a lucky natural 100,000 plus your bonus). If a certain kind of loot only drops if you roll over 100,000, then with a 1,000 luck bonus you've got a 1% chance of hitting it. The question that's been frustrating New World players is: Does that mean that items which say they give you "+1% chance at rare items" add 1,000 to your luck bonus?
SkyLineOW didn't think so: They assumed that the "+1%" chance advertised by items added 100, not 1,000, to a player's luck score. With confused players "postulating that luck is bugged and doesn't even work" because they weren't getting the drops they expected, SkyLineOW set out to prove their 100 luck theory. To that end, they "drove the boars in Edengrove to extinction and tracked what they dropped in the process."
For their first experiment, SkyLineOW says they killed 571 boars. Via unofficial resource New World Database, they knew that to get a legendary hide from a boar, they should have to hit at least 101,150 on the loot roll. They had a 4,390 luck bonus at the time without wearing any luck boosting items, so the lowest they could roll was 4,390, and the best they could roll was 104,390. If the datamining was right, their chance of rolling above 101,150 was around 3.23%.
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Out of 571 dead boars, legendary hides dropped 19 times for a practical drop rate of 3.33%. As SkyLineOW observes, that's very close to their 3.23% prediction—close enough to indicate that things were working roughly as expected.
For their second test, they put on some luck enhancing gear, and using their "1% = 100 luck" assumption, calculated that they now had a 9,590 luck bonus, which should have resulted in an 8.44% legendary hide drop rate. After killing another 573 boars, they observed a 7.5% drop rate. Again, that's pretty close. If "+1% chance" in item descriptions actually translated to 1,000 luck, as some players thought, SkyLineOW should've had many, many more legendary hides at the end of their boar massacre.
So, luck is working, but luck-granting items aren't as potent as some players expected, and all it cost to prove it was the lives of over a thousand pretend boars.
The question of exactly how luck works isn't quite settled, though. Unless Amazon publishes a deep dive into the workings of the stat, the exact calculations will continue to be debated. Practically, though, SkyLineOW says that this New World luck bonus calculator (opens in new tab) (which uses the 1% =100 conversion) is useful. It doesn't quite match their calculations, but is close enough that they say it doesn't really matter who's right.