Every day, Madria Varas offers at least one tradeskill group mission. She can be found in The Village of Shin upstairs within Outsiders' Landing. The general instructions for all the missions are below. Any differences will be noted on the individual quest pages:
Unusually for an EQ2 quest, there are five concurrent-but-independent things going on. The builds (108), the subquests (between 1 and 36), the stages (4), the quest originally given by Madria, and the event that is the point of the instance. The builds and the quests are player driven, the remainder are driven by the game as certain requirements are met.
Usually EQ2 tradeskill quests require you to create N specific items and turn them in. The quest progresses as you build them, and can be completed when you have completed precisely what you were sent to make. This event is different. The subquests measure builds. The event and its stages measure total items built. Each subquest requires you to perform three builds for "the cause". They can be any three builds you choose, so long as they are builds of one of the twelve recipes you are given. You're running against two separate counters: the counter for the subquest (3) and the counters for the event itself (108). When you turn in the quest, all the items you've built from the twelve recipes are taken off your hands and added to the total required for the event.
The event is divided up visually into four stages. Once three of each of the twelve items is turned in, you progress to stage one. Once six of each item are turned in, you reach stage two. When nine of each item are turned in you reach stage three, and with twelve you get to stage four. Madria's original quest is marked as complete as soon as you reach stage four. You can exit the instance and turn it in at this point. This is not the end of the action, however. If you stick around for the instance event to complete, there's stuff to watch and a bonus chest of pretty good loot.
These quests have become moderately famous as huge timesinks. Doing over a hundred builds, runtime to and from the questgiver and material sources, the occasional botched build, etc., can stretch the time required for a single person to complete this event well over four hours. That's why a lot of people take one look, turn around, and run.
Happily the solo time to complete can be reduced to in the area of fifteen to twenty minutes, and the group speed to about 1/3 of that. Here are the things that can move the needle from "all day" to "just a few minutes"
Spending your tradeskill and tradeskill prestige points can make a big difference when you're doing 108 builds. :) Choosing things that improve progress (rather than harvesting speed, for instance) will reduce the amount of time required substantially.
There's no combat in these instances (normally) so bring out your gear! Got a cloak that helps build speed? A necklace with a bonus to tailoring? A pet that improves crafting progress? Bring em all! They're worth the effort, since this is potentially a very long instance, and every bit of help you get will reduce the time spent completing it. Plus, you get to look funny in mismatched gear.
You can also speed things up is bring more than one player. All players can complete subquests and turn them in. The event and stages will progress more quickly, because together you are producing more items per minute. Bring two players, complete the event in (about) half the time.
If you bring three of the same kind of crafter, then you can complete the event in about one third of the time. But it gets better when you bring an outfitter, a scholar, and a craftsman. Why? Because each artisan builds things at one of three speeds depending on their archetype and the archetype of the thing being built:
We saved the best for last! Finally, a tradeskill quest that is improved by mass production! The subquests measure builds, but the event measures total items made. So even if the subquests don't go faster individually, the event can be speeded up enormously if you use mass production. At least twelve of each item are required to complete the event. If you can make fifteen at a time, you can finish the entire event's worth of an item in a single build. That brings the entire event down to one quest turn in with the contents of just nine builds!
First caveat: If you turn in a pile of 15 items to the questgiver, the ledger changes from "needed: 3" to "needed: -12". The "minus twelve" looks a little weird, but the ledger is actually tracking things needed for this stage instead of for the whole event, so we've got 12 more than we need for this stage.
Second caveat: The stages take time to complete the animation they're associated with. If you do the herculean "one quest, nine builds of fifteen, one turnin" to complete the entire event in one go, you will not finish the event immediately. Instead you will see "needed: -12" for all of the items. Some time will pass (and the stage animation will progress, building the boat or arming the fighters or whatever) and then it will change to "needed: -9", having consumed another three for the stage. Then more time passes, and "needed: -6". Lastly, more time passes, and the meter will read "needed: -3" for all the items, and the end-of-event action will start. (Remember, you needed 12 for the event, but made 15 in a single mass-production build for efficiency. That leaves 3 extra at the end of the event.)
Also, it seems that Insight, the least of the three rare events, is a lot less rare during these missions. You can expect to get an Insight at least once per 10 combines, and sometimes more.
And if that was not enough, when you correctly counter any crafting event, you have a high chance to have your mana pool refreshed!
The quest turnin gets you
Waiting for the chest at the end of the event gets you a bit more: