Shardplate is magically-enhanced, Stormlight-powered plate armor that offers great protection and massively enhances the wearer's strength, speed and dexterity. A person wearing Shardplate is referred to as Shardbearer. There are no known methods of forging new Shardplate, and so the Plates - each having survived the thousands of years from their creation - are still a wonder and mystery even to the most advanced cultures. Originally forged to combat Voidbringers, each suit of Shardplate is now a major, and coveted, resource worth kingdoms.
Shardplate is forged from an unknown metal, and is composed of interlocking plates covering the wearer's entire body. Shardplate is heavy, often requiring assistance to don. Typically, attendants apply the armor from the feet up due to its weight. However, once on, the armor grants the wearer enhanced strength, enabling Shardbearers to easily bear the weight.
Shardplate protects its bearer far more than traditional, non-Plate armor. Swords glance off the armor with little more than a scratch, arrows are all but completely ineffective except when shot through the eyeslit of the helm, and the Plate can withstand many hits from hammers and maces before showing signs of damage. Under enough stress, segments of Shardplate can crack and even shatter. Shattered Shardplate presents problems to the wearer, as the shattered segment not only makes the wearer vulnerable in the area the Plate previously protected, but it can also slow the wearer's movements, since the strength of that part of the wearer's body is no longer enhanced by the armor. Destruction of the breastplate, especially, has been shown to severely impair the mobility of a Shardbearer.
There is one major advantage that Shardplate offers the bearer that outstrips all other advantages: it can block a Shardblade. The only hope of surviving an attack of someone armed with a Shardblade is to be outfitted in Shardplate. Created in the same era as the Blades, Shardplate must be struck in exactly the same place at least twice before the Blade breaks that segment of Plate.
Stormlight-infused gemstones are required to power Shardplate, and can even repair or regenerate damaged Plate. Shardplate appears able to regenerate from virtually any damage so long as enough time and Stormlight are available, even if only a fraction of the armor is retained. Stormlight is clearly visible in cracks of damaged Plate, leaking from the armor like wispy smoke. If damage or exertion manages to empty the gemstones of Stormlight, the armor's enhanced properties will fade away, potentially leaving the Shardbearer immobilized in a suit of Plate that his or her body can't shift unaided.
It appears that if portions of a single suit of Shardplate are separated and both supplied with Stormlight, the larger or more complete of the two will regrow completely and the smaller will crumble and disappear.
Shardplate can withstand Voidlightning, with no effect to its Bearer.
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Traditional Shardplate consumes Stormlight. This can be a problem for a Surgebinder who also consumes Stormlight.
Q. Is there a functional/structural difference between modern-day Shardplate and the stuff the Radiants wore? Did the Radiants have to use infused gems to keep their suits going or could they just 'breathe in' Stormlight and feed the suit off of their 'inhaled' reserves?
A. Something is different. You will find out what.
A: Very perceptive, you're on the right track.