Dualizing Guide - Plus Other Useful Resources

#1Wii306Posted 4/13/2012 11:34:44 PMmessage detail
Upgrading weapons and armor via dualizing in this game can be a bit complicated, as evidenced by the large number of threads asking for help on the subject on this board. Since there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive, dedicated guide to dualizing equipment anywhere (at least not in English, as far as I’ve looked, which admittedly is not all that far), I decided to put together an overview of how dualizing works and how to best plan out what to do to optimally upgrade your equipment.

In addition to that, I also wanted to make this a sort of “General Help” thread by providing a list of useful resources that may or may not be relevant or helpful to dualizing. So at the end of this guide, I’ve compiled a list of links that I hope will be helpful to at least a few members of this board; they have certainly been very helpful to me in my own playthrough of Graces. (Some may recognize those links from one of my old topics. Maybe this is just a cheap ploy to get those links stickied. Or maybe I actually believe that a dualizing guide would be helpful to the users of this board!)

I realize that the guide may be a bit wordy, so I’ve tried to organize it into sections so that you can find the information you’re looking for pretty easily. Any feedback, recommendations for improvement, comments, corrections, sticky requests, bumps – I’ll take anything! – are greatly appreciated.

Table of Contents
1. Dualizing Equipment with Shards
1.1 Qualities
1.2 Abilities
1.2.1 Ability Upgrading
1.2.2 Dual Abilities
2. Tempering Weapons
3. Extracting Gems
4. Upgrading Gems
4.1 Fusing Gems
4.2 Gem Polishing
5. Converting Equipment
6. Determining Resell Value
7. General Tips and Tricks
8. FAQs

9. Other Useful Resources
9.1 Sidequests
9.2 Titles
9.3 Artes
9.4 Materials
9.5 Monsters
9.6 Dualizing
9.7 Books
9.8 Discoveries
9.9 Recipes
9.10 Grade Shop
#2Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:44:32 PMmessage detail(edited)
1. Dualizing Equipment with Shards

The first step in upgrading any weapon or armor is to dualize it with a shard. Every shard has three important attributes that you’re going to want to pay attention to: the ability (e.g. “Attack” or “Rise”), the ability’s level (e.g. “[2]”), and the quality (e.g. “Cool” or “Noble”). Equipments also sometimes come with an ability and ability level, and they all have a quality. I’ll talk about qualities first, and then I’ll go on to talk about abilities, since the two are sort of unrelated and can be treated more or less independently.

1.1 Qualities

This is the primary attribute you want to focus on if you care about making the most powerful weapon possible. The quality of the weapon/armor that results from dualizing your equipment with your shard directly determines what stats will be boosted upon dualizing. For example, if you end up with a “Noble” weapon, it will gain 3 P.Atk, 2 C.Atk, and 6 Acc. Note that weapons only gain the stat boosts for P.Atk, C.Atk, and Accuracy, whereas armors only gain the stat boosts for P.Def, C.Def, and Evasion. To check what stats will be boosted, just select the equipment and shard in the dualizing menu to bring up the preview screen, then scroll over to the stats screen with Square. These boosts are permanent – they persist even after the equipment’s ability has been extracted. (I will cover ability extracting in section 3).

All qualities have a “rank” assigned to them that’s determined by the number of letters in their name. I will use the following convention: a Rank 1 quality is one with four letters in its name, a Rank 2 quality is one with five letters in its name, and so on until Rank 7 (ten letters). Unsurprisingly, higher-ranking qualities tend to give greater stat boosts than lower-ranking qualities, so you usually want to increase the rank of your equipment each time you dualize.

There is a somewhat complicated formula that determines the rank of the weapon that results from dualizing a piece of equipment with a shard. I’ll break it into three cases:
-If you dualize an equipment and shard of different rank, the resulting equipment will take on the lower-ranking quality (e.g. “Cool” + “Olden” -> “Cool”). It does not matter whether the lower quality is on the equipment or on the shard.
-If you dualize two things of equal rank, the resulting equipment will have a different rank. If their ranks are less than 5 (less than eight letters), the rank either goes up by one (e.g. “Keen” + “Cool” -> “Noble”), or it becomes rank 6 (e.g. “Keen” + “Hard” -> “Tolerable”). If their ranks are 5, the rank will decrease or become rank 6. If their ranks are 6, the rank will stay at 6. The quality that results is strictly determined by the two qualities you start with. All of the combinations are summarized in the Google Doc I’ve linked to a few lines down from here.
-There are some exceptions that yield special, Rank 7 “cameo” qualities. For example, “Cool” + “Noble” -> “Guyabulous.” To gain access to these qualities through dualizing, you must have purchased the “Unlock Qualities” feature from the Grade Shop during a New Game +. A list of how to make these qualities can be found in the Aselia link below.

As you can see, the final quality of your equipment is directly determined by the starting qualities of your original equipment and your shard. It doesn’t matter which quality is on which item. If you’re ever unsure about what a particular combination of qualities will yield, you can always select the two items in the dualizing menu and see what quality the preview window shows you. Also, if the resulting quality is of a higher rank than the starting qualities, its name will appear in Orange in the preview window.
#3Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:36:40 PMmessage detail
Note that in some cases, if you are dualizing a weapon and shard with the same quality rank, the ability will level up instead of the rank. This can actually be a very useful feature if you care about gem extraction more than you care about upgrading the weapon in question. Check Section 1.2.1 for a more detailed explanation of how this works.

This page will tell you what each of the qualities does (which can also be found in your Quality Book in the Library section of your menu, at least for all qualities you’ve already encountered), as well as how to get the Rank 7 qualities:
http://aselia.wikia.com/wiki/ToG_-_Quality

And this chart will tell you which combinations required to get all other qualities (Ranks 1-6):
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aksx4E6IsDjwdEZOLVoyV0xuQl82dUpqUXVvNkZ4UHc#gid=1

1.2 Abilities

Abilities are a bit unusual in that they are only transiently attached to the weapon/armor that you dualize with. If you want to continue upgrading your equipment beyond +1, you must first extract the ability from it, which essentially means transferring the ability to a gem. Thus, this is the attribute that you want to focus on if you want to make the most effective gems as possible (more on that later – stay tuned).

Each ability has a name and a level. The name tells you what the ability does: for example, the Petrify ability increases damage against enemies weak to petrification, while the Reinforce ability increases your rate of CC recovery. The level (i.e. [#]) is an indicator of how effective the ability is, from 1 to 10 (*) – higher levels correspond to greater passive bonuses. The level directly determines the numerical value of the ability’s effect: or example, the Attack[2] ability always gives +17 P.Atk, while the Attack[3] ability always gives +24 P.Atk. (It should be noted that Rise shards only give 1 additional minimum CC every 3 levels, and Exceed shards only give 1 additional maximum CC every 2 levels. It would be pretty overpowered otherwise!) In any case, you can look through the shard’s item description (with Square) to determine exactly what stat boosts the shard gives.

The way in which abilities are transferred from shards to weapons is usually pretty simple. Once you dualize a weapon with a shard, that shard’s ability gets added directly to the weapon. After dualizing, you can check the abilities by scrolling through the weapon description. If the weapon already has an ability (i.e. from Converting, unique weapons, or previous rounds of dualizing), then it will end up with two abilities. All weapons, armors, and gems can have a maximum of two abilities. (In fact, as far as I know, there is no way to even attempt to add a third ability to a weapon.)

Skip ahead to the section on gem extraction if you want to find out why abilities are more important for gems than for weapons and how to make the best use of them. It may sound like I’m downplaying the significance of shard ability with respect to weapons and armor – it is not necessarily correct to do so. As it turns out, abilities are very important for your weapons/armor if you do NOT plan on extracting the gem. Say you’ve gotten up to +20 and you’re sick of dualizing. Then you want the last shard you dualize with to be one with a good ability, because that ability will stick around on the equipment and provide its passive bonus to you. So know when you’re going to stop dualizing, and plan accordingly!
#4Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:44:49 PMmessage detail(edited)
1.2.1 Ability Upgrading (with shards)

Butf course, this being a JRPG, there are added levels of complexity in the system. Some combinations of equipment+shard will actually increase the level of the shard’s ability by one. This only occurs if the initial ability is level 3 or less. In all such cases, the quality in question can be on either the equipment or the shard, and the resulting equipment will keep this quality. In order for ability upgrading to occur, the starting equipment and shard must be of a compatible quality and ability. If the quality is on the equipment, then the ability must be on the shard, and vice versa. I’ve compiled a list of what qualities correspond to what abilities below; (almost) full credit goes to the Japanese wiki:
Keen: Attack
Hard: Defense
Cool: Mind
Cute: Resist
Rapt: Aim
Oily: Evade
Buff: Vitality
Cold: Speed
Grand: Gain
Noble: Absorb
Suave: Blessing
Olden: Tension
Sunny: Holy
Rigid: Rescue
Wicked: Poison
Barbed: Paralyze
Frosty: Freeze
Stuffy: Burn
Formal: Petrify
Solemn: Slow
Untamed: Revenge
Gallant: Refresh
Haughty: Refill
Sketchy: Rise
Magical: Exceed
Epochal: Reinforce
It basically follows the order that the Qualities (Ranks 1 through 4) appear in the Quality Book and that the Shards appear in the Collector’s Book.

So for example, dualizing a Keen Iron Sword with an Attack[3] shard of any quality will yield a Keen Iron Sword+1 with the ability Attack[4]. In a way, these can be even more useful than quality rank increases, at least for shards with low-level abilities.

Source:
http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ja&tl=en&twu=1&u=http://www23.atwiki.jp/talesofgracesf/pages/69.html&usg=ALkJrhgnAQeccVEoB0A1aVc2EyAO8c-MZg

1.2.2 Dual Abilities

Finally, some abilities can be combined into new “dual” abilities. Your weapon/armor must have one ability, and your shard must have the other ability. For this to occur, two conditions must be met: the resulting quality must be of a specific kind (all Rank 5) that depends on the dual ability you are aiming for, and the two starting abilities (on your weapon and shard) must be within one level of one another. The level of the dual ability will be equal to the higher of the two initial levels.
Warrior: Attack + Defense, quality must be “Fabulous”
Sorceror: Mind + Resist, “Dazzling”
Assassin: Aim + Evade, “Perilous”
Valiant: Attack + Mind, “Poignant”
Paladin: Resist + Evade, “Vigorous”
Hunter: Aim + Defense, “Gracious”
For example, combining a Magical Attack[3] Ice Coffin+1 with an Epochal Defense[4] shard will produce a Fabulous Warrior[4] Ice Coffin+2.

(Credit for this section also goes to the Japanese wiki.)

2. Tempering Weapons

If you use a piece of upgraded equipment in battle, it will become tempered. There is a set probability that the equipment will be tempered at the end of each battle, so just keep fighting battles when this happens. It will often take between 5-10 battles for a weapon or armor to be tempered. Remember that the item has to be equipped in order for it to have a chance of tempering. Tempered weapons will receive a passive percent bonus to damage, and tempered armors will give a percent reduction to damage. The value of this bonus is solely determined by the equipment’s quality. Once a weapon has been tempered, its name will be highlighted in orange in the item/dualizing menu.

But perhaps more importantly, tempering allows you to extract a gem from the weapon. If you want to keep on upgrading the same piece of equipment, this becomes very important. Which brings us to the next section…
#5Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:38:45 PMmessage detail
3. Extracting Gems

You may have noticed that once you’ve upgraded a piece of equipment once, the game won’t allow you to dualize it with any more shards, even after it has been tempered. In order to continue upgrading a piece of equipment, you must first an ability from it by dualizing it with another piece of tempered equipment. Note that the equipment does not have to have the same name – so you can dualize a Steel Bladearang+2 with a Rune Shotstaff+1. (However, you can not dualize weapons with armor.) This will take away the highest-level ability from each piece of equipment and combine them into a single gem. Each weapon will lose one ability, even if one weapon has the two highest abilities overall. The weapons will NOT disappear after dualizing – they will merely lose an ability.

These gems can be equipped in the 4th slot of your Equipment screen, where items like Poison Charms go. The only stat boosts that gems give are whatever the abilities say (with the exception the Rank 7 gems – scroll down a bit for an explanation of that).

Some special cases:
-If the highest ability on both pieces of equipment is the same and at the same level, that ability will be upgraded by 1. If they have any additional abilities between them, it will then take the next-highest ability. This means that if the two pieces of equipment are identical, then both abilities will be extracted, and both will be upgraded. For example, dualing a Rise[4]Att[3] weapon with another Rise[4]Att[3] weapon will result in a Rise[5]Att[4] gem, as well as two weapons with no abilities. This is ideal if you want to optimize your gems in the least number of steps.
-If the highest ability on both pieces of equipment is the same, but at a different level, it will take the higher-level ability of the two and discard the other. If the weapon with the lower level of that ability has a second ability, then it will take that ability; otherwise, the gem will only have one ability. For example, dualizing an Aim[3]Freeze[2] weapon with an Aim[2] weapon will yield an “AIM-AIM” gem that only has the ability Aim[3]. Not ideal.
-Tiebreakers: If a weapon has two different abilities that are tied in level (for example, Freeze[3]Rise[3]), the ability that ends up being extracted varies. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I’m pretty sure it depends on the ability that will be extracted from the other weapon. This means that in such a case, you might be able to choose a weapon with an ability that allows you to retain either the Rise[3] or the Freeze[3], depending on your preference. It would just require some experimentation.

As far as gem qualities go, you do not need to worry about them in most cases. Since there are no inherent stat boosts associated with gems (i.e., excluding those conferred by the gem’s abilities), ending up with a Rank 1 gem quality is no different from ending up with a Rank 5. For example, equipping a gem with the Barbatosan quality will NOT give you +15 to all stats because, as explained above, the quality only affects the stat boost that is applied directly to the equipment when it is upgraded. There are two exceptions:
1. Quality always affects resell value, so if you intend to sell the gem, try shooting for qualities with high resell inheritance / resell multiplier values. See section 6.
2. If you are on a New Game + and decided to purchase the “Unlock Qualities” option that gives you access to the Rank 7 qualities, the special effects of those qualities will take effect if you have equipped a gem with one of those qualities. For example, equipping a Barbatosan gem will prevent you from using items (even though it doesn’t give you any stats).
If you care about any of these, then gem qualities are determined in the same way that weapon qualities are. It’s based on the qualities of the two gems you begin with.
#6Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:45:11 PMmessage detail(edited)
4. Upgrading Gems

There are two ways to make a gem more effective.

4.1 Fusing Gems

The first of these is by dualizing gems with each other. Fusing two gems works almost identically to extracting a gem from two pieces of equipment. When two gems are dualized with one another, as with equipment, you will result in a gem with two abilities. However, in this case, you will lose both starting gems. Similarly, as with equipment, the higher ability from each gem will be the one that is inherited.

If the two starting gems share a highest ability, and that ability is at the same level on both, then fusing will increase the level of that ability by 1. If the common ability is at a different level on the two gems, then the higher-level ability takes priority. In both cases, the next-highest ability will become the second ability on the gem. For example:
Rise[4]Att[2] + Rise[4]Def[3] -> Rise[5]Att[3] (Rise upgraded)
Rise[6]Att[3] + Rise[4]Def[2] -> Rise[4]Def[2] (Rise[6] takes priority; second ability from other gem inherited even though it’s lower than Att[3])
All remaining abilities will be discarded. What this means is that you’ll benefit most from fusing identical gems, because that will allow both abilities to be upgraded (as with equipment). As with equipment (starting to see a trend here?), tiebreakers are handled in mysterious ways...

4.2 Gem Polishing

The second way to upgrade gems is through gem polishing, which is much more straightforward. After completing the appropriate sidequest in Yu Liberte, you will gain access to an NPC (Marian) who will polish gems for you, for a price. Simply put, this will increase the level of each ability on the gem by one. For example, a Rise[3]/Aim[2] gem will become a Rise[4]/Aim[3] gem. The process is pretty expensive for high-level gems, and it requires that you wait several minutes in real-time. But this is by far the easier, less confusing way to get to that coveted [9]/[9] gem. You can speed up the process by giving her certain food items, including Banana Pies, Pumpkin Pudding, and Grape Parfait.

5. Converting Weapons

Finally, the last way to upgrade a weapon is to convert it into an entirely different weapon by dualizing it with the appropriate crystal (or some other material, in the case of the joke/ultimate weapons). Every basic weapon (Iron, Steel, Rune, Battle, Platinum, Mythril, Rare) can be upgraded in this way; many armors can be converted as well. Converted weapons generally have superior offensive stats and a lower minimum CC but higher maximum CC than the corresponding original weapons (once again, the exceptions are the joke/ultimate weapons – those are strictly superior). Converted armors always have superior stats.

Converted weapons/armor also all come with a new, predetermined ability, and they have a predetermined quality as well (so you might experience a drop in quality by converting a highly upgraded weapon). Some of these abilities are unique to converted equipment (i.e. they aren’t found on shards), but they can still be extracted onto gems. This is also the only way you can get two abilities onto a weapon that doesn’t start with an ability.

Interestingly enough, when you convert a weapon, it’s upgrade counter will be reset to 0. Better yet, a fraction of the quality-derived stat boosts gained by upgrading the base weapon will be inherited by the converted weapon. (I want to say it’s half, but I haven’t done any exact calculations.) What this means is that, if you want to get the most powerful weapon possible, it might pay to dualize the base weapon to +99 (or some arbitrarily high number), then convert it so that it inherits a sizeable stat boost, then dualize it to +99 again.
#7Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:40:56 PMmessage detail
6. Determining Resell Value

One of the most frequently asked questions about dualizing is: How do I figure out / optimize the resell value of my upgraded equipment? What the heck do these resell multiplier and resell inheritance values mean? I’ll do my best to answer this. Full credit to this answer goes to the wonderful writers of the Japanese ToG wiki for teasing out these hidden formulas – I probably would have never been able to figure this out on my own.

There are basically 6 variables you need to keep track of when determining resell value. I made my own abbreviations for all of them:

V = the original selling price of the item
M = the resell multiplier, which depends on the weapon’s quality
I = 1 + the resell inheritance for each step in the dualizing process (cumulative), which depends on each quality the weapon passes through.
A1 = Depends on the level of the first ability. Only the level matters; not the type of ability.
[no ability] = 1.0, [1] = 1.2, [2] = 1.3, [3] = 1.4, [4] = 1.5, [5] = 1.6, [6] = 1.8, [7] = 2.0, [8] = 2.5, [9] = 3.0, [*] = 5.0
A2 = Depends on the level of the second ability. (Use key above.)
S = The status of the weapon. S = 1.0 if the weapon has not been upgraded or has had its gem extracted; S = 1.2 if the weapon has been upgraded (name will be blue); S = 1.5 if the weapon has been tempered (name will be orange).

Then, simply put:
Resell value = V * M * I * A1 * A2 * S

Let’s walk through an example for the Dreamer’s Flange, a popular resell item. Let’s say this Flange is tempered, +3, with the abilities Attack[6] and Angel[4], and it has gone through the progression Epochal (default) -> Stuffy -> Magical -> Poignant.
V = 5,880 (selling price of the Dreamer’s Flange)
M = 5.0 (for Poignant)
I = 1 + 140% + 160% + 150% = 5.5 (resell inheritance for Stuffy, Magical, and Poignant, respectively)
A1 = 1.8 (level [6])
A2 = 1.5 (level [4])
S = 1.5 (tempered)

Resell value = 5,880 * 5.0 * 5.5 * 1.8 * 1.5 * 1.5 = 654,885
(Fun fact: Even with no abilities, the Dreamer’s Flange would be worth 242,550 gald if you follow this progression.)

And that’s it! As you can see, the tricks are to:
1) Maximize Resell Inheritance at each step in the dualizing process.
2) Only worry about maximizing the Resell Multiplier at the end.
3) Aim for high-level abilities if possible.
4) Temper your weapon before selling it.

(Note: I haven’t tested any of this out myself yet, and some of it does seem a bit suspicious / unintuitive – particularly the way the Resell Inheritance factors in. I’ll probably get around to sorting all this out eventually.)
#8Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:44:18 PMmessage detail(edited)
7. General Tips and Tricks

-At some point, as you upgrade a weapon more and more, dualizing gets expensive. REALLY expensive. Unless you’re rolling in gald at the end of the future arc, it’s not really feasible to get a weapon to +99, or to get all of your gems to [9]/[9]. But every bit along the way makes a difference!

-If you want to make really high-level gems, I would recommend using a cheap weapon as a backbone. This will lower the dualizing costs pretty significantly, without affecting your final product. Remember, the abilities on the extracted gem are solely determined by the abilities on the shards you start with. Plus, you don’t have to worry about Qualities because you’ll be tossing the weapon out anyway!

-If you want to keep an ability on a certain weapon while still upgrading that weapon, this can be done. You just have to dualize with a shard that has a higher-level ability. Recall that for equipment with two abilities, it is the higher-level ability that is extracted. For example, if you have Rise[4] on a weapon and you don’t want to get rid of it, you can dualize with a Petrify[5] shard. When you get to the gem extraction step, the weapon will keep Rise[4], and the gem will get Petrify[5].

-It can sometimes pay to dualize with shards that have a lower quality. If your equipment is already at Rank 5, you may not want to dualize with another Rank 5 shard because some of the Rank 6 qualities are inferior to the lower-ranked ones, or perhaps because you care about the resell value of your equipment. In this case, you can keep on dualizing with Rank 4 shards, swapping back and forth between Ranks 4 and 5 each time you upgrade your weapon.

-Rank 6 qualities are a hairy subject in general, because the quality you get is determined by a complex hidden formula, not strictly by the qualities you start with. I don’t want to get too far into this, but I am mentioning it because stat-wise, some of the Rank 6 qualities are actually vastly superior to the lower-ranking ones. Plus, you can go straight from Rank 1 to Rank 6, and then start working the Rank 4/5 qualities from there! (The downside is that they all have very low resell inheritance and resell multipliers). The Google Doc I linked to above has a pretty good explanation of how Rank 6 qualities work.

-If you have some desired quality in mind but you don’t know whether you have the shards to get it, this is a trick that can help you: Go to the Dualizing menu at a shop, and select the equipment you want to upgrade as your first item. Then go to your list of shards when you are prompted to select the second item. You should see a preview window on the left showing you what equipment you’ll end up with, including its quality. Now you can just scroll through the list of shards by holding the control stick down. Stop if/when the quality you want to end up with shows up in the preview window. Also remember that improved qualities/abilities show up in orange (and previously undiscovered qualities show up in green), so you can use this trick to screen for improvements as well.
#9Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:42:14 PMmessage detail
8. Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make an item worth 200,000+ gald?

Refer to section 6. In order to get one of Asbel’s titles and to progress in the bonus dungeon, you’re going to need to create a weapon worth a little over 200,000 gald. This can be accomplished with some basic dualizing. Most people use a Dream Flange with a Perilous quality. To get a Dream Flange, obtain a Rare Shotstaff from Shot Cube level 12 or Gralesyde stamp shop level 8 and dualize it with a High-Grade Crystal to convert it. Then just follow the steps in this guide to keep upgrading it, being sure to shoot for high resell inheritance values along the way and a final quality with a high resell multiplier. It pays to end up with higher abilities and to temper the weapon as well. I haven’t done this myself yet, but I’ve read that a Dreamer’s Flange+3 should be sufficient, even if you don’t shoot for really high-level abilities, and the calculations seem to support this. This is also a pretty good way to farm gald, assuming you have the shards and the stamp shop in Gralesyde.

To summarize, here are the upgrading steps you need to do:
1) Obtain your Epochal Dreamer’s Flange as described above.
2) Dualize with any Stuffy Shard to get it to +1 Stuffy. Temper and extract the ability.
3) Dualize with any Wicked shard to get it to +2 Magical. Temper and extract.
4) Dualize with any Gallant shard to get it to +3 Poignant. Temper and sell.
There are many other combinations of shard qualities that will get the appropriate resell value. But in all cases, I recommend using a Rank 3, then a Rank 4, and finally a Rank 5 quality.

What is the maximum level to which a weapon can be upgraded?

+99 – You can upgrade any weapon or armor 99 times. After that point, additional dualizing will not yield any stat bonuses. You also get a grade bonus equal to the highest level to which you’ve upgraded a piece of equipment, so that’s one incentive to getting it that high.

I upgraded my weapon once, and the game won’t let me upgrade it again. What gives?

An upgraded weapon needs to be tempered and have its ability extracted before you can upgrade it a second time. Refer to the sections on tempering and gem extraction (sections 2 and 3).

Should I save my best shards in order to upgrade the best, end-game weapons and armor?

Sure, to a degree. The weapon will keep the ability of the last shard you use, so you may want to save your single best shard for your last dualizing step. However, using lesser weapons doesn't matter if you're going to end up extracting the ability onto a gem anyway. The quality is more important when you're upgrading the weapon, so be sure to use your high-quality shards on the weapons you intend to keep.
#10Wii306(Topic Creator)Posted 4/13/2012 11:45:31 PMmessage detail(edited)
What are the best abilities to put on weapons / armor / gems?

If you (like me) enjoy stringing together long combos, Rise, Exceed, and Reinforce shards are the way to go. Accuracy and evasion are actually some of the most important stats in this game (unlike in some other Tales games). Most people recommend prioritizing these over the other stat-boosting abilities (P.Atk, C.Atk, P.Def, C.Def). The weakness-exploiting shards (Poison, Petrify, etc.) are only really useful if you want to design a weapon to beat a specific boss or area of the game. The healing shards (Gain, Tension, etc.) can be useful for the coliseum, where you have no dedicated healer. Play around with them and see what suits your playstyle best. Experiment! Be creative!

My weapon isn’t tempering! How do I speed this process up?

Every weapon has a set chance of being tempered at the end of a fight, and some take longer than others. There are several recipes that increase the tempering rate for a single battle when cooked: Radish Steak, Marbled Radish Steak, Radish Salisbury Steak, Radish Miso Soup, Daishi Stew, and Miso Stew. Eat your radishes, and just keep at it! I also recommend trying to dualize multiple pieces of equipment at once and fighting easy battles (at Lhant Hill) to speed up the process. The Book of Smithery also increases your tempering rate, by 2x.

I can’t get shards to drop! What can I do to increase the shard drop rate?

Shards stop dropping after you reach a certain number of total shards. The drop rate lowers by half when you have 100 shards, lowers by even more when you hit 150, and drops to 0% when you have 190 shards. Also note that, as with all other materials, there is a limit of 15 shards for every type (every ability). Furthermore, fighting enemies at a much lower level than you lowers the drop rate substantially. This can be remedied by moving to a more difficult area or raising the difficulty level (which passively increases the drop rate in addition to raising enemy levels). If the drop rate still isn’t satisfactory after clearing out your shard inventory, then you can try cooking Fish & Chips, Curried Cod, Miso-Glazed Cod, or Grape Parfait, or putting the Book of Acquisition in your Mixer. These all double the drop rate (and stack).

Where can I find <insert shard here>?

The stickied quality-farming miniguide provides a comprehensive list of the locations of enemies that drop all of the different qualities of shards. Here is the link, in case it gets deleted:
http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/604158-tales-of-graces-f/62417923

As far as shard abilities go, the Japanese wiki has a list, but I don’t think there is a translated version of it anywhere. It seems like every area in the game drops 4-8 different types of shards. The list can be found here (the link also has a late-game shard quality drop list, complete with % drop rates for different areas):
http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ja&tl=en&twu=1&u=http://www23.atwiki.jp/talesofgracesf/pages/65.html&usg=ALkJrhi98CGXZgLXFjXe5xPju6gDKAGGbA#id_ab336a63
I did my best to pull out some near-end-game locations for each ability, so that you all don’t have to grapple with the more obtuse translations. All of that is compiled in this topic:
http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/604158-tales-of-graces-f/62524541