Shardplate is an ancient and magical, Stormlight-powered plate armor that offers great protection and massively enhances each wearer's strength, speed and dexterity. A person wearing Shardplate is referred to as a 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. Further, an entire suit of Plate can be regrown from just a small part of a previously intact suit.
Shardplate (i.e., the Investiture in it) is tied to each of its Radiant's Identity. A Radiant can affect each his/her own Plate, but not that of anyone else, unless he/she has a matching Identity with the other. Since none of the old Radiants are alive anymore, no one can affect their inert Plate.
The above is evident because Szeth says he doesn't wear Plate since it interferes with his Lashings, and because Kaladin can't Lash Adolin's Plate when they travel to Kholinar because Lashings don't work on Plate.
Further, in Dalinar's vision with the ancient Radiants, the Windrunner Radiant was able to Lash himself in his Plate, but the Radiant that Dalinar was impersonating had to dismiss his so that he could be Lashed.
Shardplate can withstand Voidlightning, with no effect to its Bearer.
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After closing one's visor, the sides mist, locking it into place, and the sides of the helm become translucent. One still needs the eye slit - because looking through the sides is like looking through dirty glass - but the translucence is one of the most wonderful parts of Shardplate.
The helm, then arms are removed by armorers, revealing a gambeson underneath worn for padding. The breastplate and legs are removed, and the Shardbearer can then step out of his/her boots.
To Adolin, Shardplate is wonderful and empowering, but beneath a hot sun, it could still leave a man wishing for something less confining.
To Dalinar, Plate is not an ornament. It is a tool. He is never surprised by the strength or speed the armor lends him. It is as if, for him, wearing his Plate is his natural state; it's the times without it that are abnormal. This, perhaps, is one reason he'd earned the reputation of being one of the greatest warriors and generals who ever lived.
Traditional Shardplate consumes Stormlight. This can be a problem for a Surgebinder who also consumes Stormlight.
Q&A with Brandon
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.
(See Adolin's duel where Kaladin interacts with a Shardplate helm.)
Q: I noticed the windspren swirling around Kaladin in the storm as he fought Szeth. Are these the first step towards Shardplate?
A: Very perceptive, you're on the right track.
- The Way of Kings, Prologue - To Kill
- The Way of Kings, 12. Unity
- Oathbringer, 75. Only Red
- Ars Arcanum
- Oathbringer, 60. Winds And Oaths
- Rhythm of War, 22. No Use Talking
- The Way of Kings, 13. Ten Heartbeats
- Oathbringer, 52. After His Father
- Oathbringer, 26. Blackthorn Unleashed
- Words of Radiance, 29. Rule Of Blood
- Modern-day Shardplate
- Words of Radiance, 56. Whitespine Uncaged
- Shardplate speculation ...