The majority of armor is crafted from either assorted monster parts (such as bone, scales, and even claws) or precious minerals (such as iron, machalite, and earth crystals). All armor pieces give some minor benefit besides basic protection, but it’s usually too small to be meaningful unless a complete set is worn. These include such things as elemental protection, cold or heat resistance, status resistance, enhanced health or stamina, enhanced attack or defense, and many more. It is also possible to achieve a stronger effect in a few particular areas by mixing and matching pieces from different sets, such as combining a Rathalos Helm and Vambraces, Volvidon Mail and Greaves, and Jaggi Faulds to achieve a grand Attack Up (L) at the expense of all the other skills the individual armor sets would have provided.
In keeping with Silvervine, any armor set can be of any defense rating (from 4/16 all the way to 10/70). To balance this, only armor sets of the same rating can be intermixed. More protective armors may require different and/or better parts and may come with additional cost.
Every monster has an associated set of abilities granted by its armor. Most are beneficial, though not all. These can be modified using Decorations, i.e. jewels, trinkets, and other accessories that share the same (or opposite) ability. Decorations always have a minor effect, but it is sometimes just enough to activate an armor’s latent ability (or improve it to a new threshold) or even mitigate a harmful effect.
Different pieces of armor have different capacity for Decorations, ranging from none to as many as three “slots”. Most Decorations are small and only take up a single slot, but some particularly powerful ones take up two (or, very rarely, even three). If a Decorations requires multiple slots, all of them must be satisfied by a single piece of armor; a broach can’t be split between multiple areas, after all, and even an enchanted sash would get cumbersome if affixed all over.
A list of sample armors and all known armor abilities can be found in the Armory.