1. What is "Shard Armour"?
Shard Armour is a Level 80 special armour / jewelry / items that can only be bought or made using void shards (http://eq2.allakhazam.com/db/item.html?eq2item=108235). Shards are quest items that are obtained on the successful completion of quests in end-game, triple-heroic instances, and are bestowed on the entire group when a major 'boss' mob is killed.
The shards are NO-TRADE between distinct players, but they can be placed in your Shared Bank ("Heirloom") so that all characters in one account can access and use them. The only way that shards can be given to another player is to a commissioned crafter, in the 'Materials' window at crafting time.
Shard Armours were developed late last year when SOE realized that most of the end-game content was going to hard-core raiders, leaving many solo and group players to feel left out in the cold. While the equipment is not rated as FABLED, as items are from a raid zone, they are rated as high LEGENDARY, and as a player collects up to at least five pieces of a set, the spell/heal/melee/ranged and bonuses grow as a result. Once a player outfits him or herself in full Tier 2 shard gear, it is said to be equivalent (or very close) to Level 80 Fabled Raid Gear.
Before GU51, there were only two tiers of shard armours. Each player begins by collecting pieces for T1 armours, usually starting around 5 shards per piece and growing upwards of 12. Then, Tier 1 armours can be upgraded to Tier 2, for the piece of armour itself, and still more shards (16 or more . . . ) With GU51, new "Elemental Essences" were added, along with some new "soloable" quests that, as long as you have T2 gear, you can trade up yet again to even more glorious stuff in Lavastorm. We are learning about that process now and will post more on it soon.
2. How many shards can I get at once?
Each featured instance will offer at least one shard each time that you 'run' with a group. There are possibilities, depending on the quests offered, that players might be able to pick up two or more shards in a run. If you are running a zone for the first time with some experienced players, ask them if there are any completed quests that they would be willing to share with you to increase your chances of gathering more shards during your session.
Every day, changing at around midnight Mountain in the US, an Erudite at the Dropship Landing in the Moors of Ykesha will offer a quest that will award two shards instead of just one. This quest is called the Daily Double. The instance featured for the 'DD' changes every 24 hours but the quest can be completed within 2 days to still receive double credit.
3. Where do I find the 'Shard' Quests in my Journal?
All 'shard' quests will appear in your journal categorized as a 'Mission'. If you do not complete a mission within 2 days of receiving it, the mission will expire, and you will need to pick up the new missions for a given zone from quest givers located just outside of the zones' entrances.
4. What are the zones that offer shards?
There are many, and you must have the Shadow Odyssey expansion pack to experience them. They are all instances (no creature reset) that allow you to enter roughly every 1 day and 11 hours.
The missions are listed on the right side of this site: http://eq2.allakhazam.com/db/item.html?eq2item=108235. The zones and locations are as follows:
Befallen: Halls of the Forsaken Mission Group
Befallen: Cavern of the Afflicted Mission Group
Befallen: Necrotic Asylum Mission Group
Miragul Upper Mission Group
Miragul Lower Mission Group
Miragul Shard Mission Group
Evernight Abbey Mission Group
Mistmyr Manor Mission Group
Ravenscale Repository Mission Group
Dropship Landing Zone
Norrath Mission Group
Upper Guk Mission Group
Lower Guk Mission Group
Guk Stronghold Mission Group
If you join a group and the group cannot zone into an instance, chances are that you need to 'reset' the zone. A message will pop up to indicate which player is currently unable to enter the zone.
Under the Persona --> 'Zone Timers' button in EQII, click on the Persistent tab, search for the zone name, and check to be sure that it is "Unlocked". If so, also be sure that you hit the 'Reset Timer' button to allow yourself access to the zone. This allows all of the mobs in the instance to reset and for the group to enter it together. The reason why some people need to reset this timer is because they might have been in a group within the last 18 hours or less, but the main named mob wasn't killed, the group kept wiping out, everyone had to leave, etc and on and on... You know how it is, so just check your zone timers before you offer to get into a shard group. It's embarrassing to have to admit that the timer hasn't expired yet.
I had posted a whole bunch of suggestions on how to put together a great group, and Blogspot ate it. I will post more later . . . please feel free to ask me, Zapest, Shadowdeath, Lugara, or any other Level 80 about these shard runs, and we'll be happy to help!