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This Mithril Vest gives me 10/+ 5 damage resistance!

As we all know, Iron is stronger than Bronze is stronger than Copper, so therefore all weapons and armor made of Iron must be better! Well, not necessarily. In Real Life, other factors come into it, including design (a well-made bronze tool is superior to a low-end iron tool), the maker's skill, available forging techniques (bronze is actually stronger than wrought iron, and pure iron is more or less useless), facilities, time, the quality of the raw material, and alloy composition. Some metals are likewise better suited to cutting, resisting damage, or being light enough to carry. They will frequently be used by the Ultimate Blacksmith.

Going by your typical Role Playing Game, however, the most important feature of a weapon or item is not who made it or how, but what it is made of. The more expensive and rare the material, the better. You'll start running into different types of equipment in a certain order, ranging from newbie junk to epic loot:

  • Cloth - "Armor" made of cloth is usually reserved for Squishy Wizard types and badass martial artists to whom Armor Is Useless. Otherwise, it will be the baseline worthless armor you start with. It also tends to be robes or clothing rather then actual protective gear.
    • For those who use it, cloth has a hierarchy all its own, ranging from cotton to silk to explicitly magical material.
    • Sometimes the creators, for a change, did do the research, so padded armor or a gambeson is present. Made of quilted cloth, but still better than nothing if you cannot afford something to make yourself feel less disposable.
    • Technically, ballistic nylon and Kevlar count as cloth. However, the kinds of role playing games with ballistic armors (Mass Effect, The World of Darkness, Shadowrun, etc) tend to not have Elemental Crafting, which is a usually a fantasy trope.
  • Leather - Usually made from tanned leather or animal hides, this is typically one of the first forms of "real" armor you'll find.
    • Here, the armor grades depend on the animal the hide came from. Expect things like real world animals to give way to magical and increasingly powerful critters like Wyvern, Hydra, Dragon (various kinds), but never Moogle. This is especially true when some classes can't wear anything lower down the list.
  • Wood - Usually the weakest type of weapons material you'll find, and not very good armor, either. Of course, certain weapons like bows or staves have no problem with this. That being said, if someone can kick ass with 'just' a wooden sword, he's grade-A Badass material. This is historically the most common material for shields.
    • As with cloth and leather above, items made primarily from wood will often have a hierarchy where an item is more powerful depending on what type of wood it is made from (e.g. a yew bow will be better than an oak bow).
  • Stone - Plain ol' stone, like flint or obsidian, is usually only found as part of heavy weapons like axes or hammers. Historically popular in areas lacking easily accesible sources of metalcraft, such as many natives to the western hemisphere
    • Obsidian - There is a one-to-one relationship between this material and Mayincatec culture.
    • Bone - Weapons made from animal bones usually fall somewhere between wood and stone, and can fall much lower (a sharpened animal bone being about as easy to make as a sharpened piece of tree.)
  • Metals - The real meat and potatoes of equipment. The general hierarchy is as follows:
    • Bronze - Usually the first metal weapons or armor you'll find and tougher than leather or wood. Sometimes preceded by weaker copper gear. However, bronze is always weaker than...
    • Iron - The most common material for metal weapons like swords. One of the strongest mundane metals around. Generally includes steel but sometimes precedes the alloy in the hierarchy.
      • Basic 'iron' armors may also fall into a hierarchy. Chain mail is usually the weakest type, and may be reserved for light-weight warriors. This extends all the way up to scale, and eventually the sort of plate armor you think of when people mention the Knight in Shining Armor. Just as with all examples, the historical design or function is moot. It doesn't matter that a breastplate defended against arrows well or that the buckler was the most advanced shield type (during the Renaissance) - materials and type have a defined hierarchy that ignores this.
    • Precious Metals - For some reason, precious metals like silver, gold, or even platinum are often treated as stronger than iron. Never mind that the durability, weight, and sharpness of these elements is in no way helped by the material being rare or expensive. Very slightly Truth in Television. It's fairly common for weapons and armor on display in museums to be gold-coated. That's because they're ornamental pieces, made for nobility and monarchs, essentially Gorgeous Period Dress for men. The more practical stuff tended not to be treated very delicately, so it was much less likely to last long enough to be exhibited.
      • Silver - The main utility of silver weapons is in serving as an Achilles Heel to supernatural creatures like werewolves or vampires. Still, because of this magical quality, silver is often treated as stronger than steel.
      • Gold - Soft and malleable even when cold and pretty much worthless outside of having a good electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion. This is why some works try to justify 'gold' weapons as being actually gold-plated, or otherwise extensively decorated with the metal in question (though it still happens to be stronger than the plain stuff).
    • Fantastic Metals - At a certain point on the scale, fantastic materials start getting thrown into the mix, which have properties which border on (or are) magical. Common examples include Mithril, Orichalcum, Adamantium, Neutronium, Unobtainium, Thunderbolt Iron, or any old Phlebotinum.
  • Gemstones - Usually start to show up later on, with such materials as ruby, emerald, diamond, or even an undefined 'crystal'. Some might be incredibly rare gems like "the crystallized tears of Crystal Dragon Jesus." May be combined with Elemental Powers: Gems are placed on magical accessories where the gem in question has an influence on the effect; e.g. Rubies often give boosts related to fire. Diamond, at least, is partially justified since it is known as the hardest metal known to man natural material on earth (despite the fact that real diamond is too brittle to be practical as armor), but it gets kind of silly when your character starts wearing armor made out of glass.
    • Partly averted in Real Life by the Mesoamerican warclubs with obsidian blades along their length (the best known being the Aztec version, the macuahuitl). Obsidian, like all glasses, can take a sharper edge than any metal, though it doesn't last, and a far-future army might, say, equip soldiers with single-use ultra-cutters lined with synthetic diamond blades.
  • Magical/Elemental equipment - Late in the game, equipment starts to take on explicitly magical properties to keep up with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil in the world. This often includes elemental weapons such as the Flaming Sword or Laser Blade).
  • Legendary equipment - You know you're approaching the ultimate equipment when it starts taking names from mythology. What else is cooler than Dual-Wielding King Arthur's Excalibur, the Grecian Aegis, or Thor's Mjolnir? The Infinity+1 Sword is often to be found here.

Now, even if the work does plainly say these elements are outright better than everything else (what with being magic and all), there won't be any special technique to smelt the metal, forge the armor, or otherwise craft this amazingly rare find that any old armorer or PC can't pick up. Some games try to balance this by putting "Crafting" systems into play, that require a set level to even consider creating a Depleted Uranium Sword of Soviet Slaying.

Compare Random Power Ranking. Can lead to Palette Swap.

Examples of Elemental Crafting include:


  • Saint Seiya has tiered armor sets that were exponentially more powerful than the last. Bronze armor could withstand -100 Celsius and thousands of kilograms of pressure, while Silver Armors have magic effects like petrification and can resist temperatures near absolute zero, and Gold armors are the tip of this, resisting falls from orbit. When new enemies showed up, their armors were either equivalent or superior to Gold armors.
    • However, armors were not made of those metals; they were made from Gammanium, Orichalcum and Star Dust. The quantity of Orichalcum determined the rank, Bronze having less Orichalcum and Gold the most. It's All There in the Manual.
    • And all new enemies' armors were inferior to Gold armors as they were breakable, something that is impossible to do to a Gold Cloth unless done by a God or an artifact crafted by a God (such as the Main Pillar in Poseidon's Sanctuary.) The only superior armor to a Gold armor is a God armor if said armor has received blood from Athena.
      • I notice the distinctive lack of references about the (Anime only) Iron Steel armors. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
  • Gundam Wing has Gundanium, an alloy of various metals and non-ferrous elements[1] that is insanely durable, heat-resistant, and radar-disrupting. Mobile suits made of Gundanium are a class above more common titanium-armored MS, but since the secret of its creation is limited to approximately six individuals out of the whole world it's pretty rare. Keeping with the theme of the trope, there are instances of Gundanium being used for something other than a whole machine, which does indeed producer a superior item.

Comic Books

  • Wolverine's claws and bones are infused with Adamantium, a nearly indestructible metal unique to the Marvel Universe. Creating and shaping Adamantium is apparently a very complex process known only to a few, and cutting it once formed requires a special particle beam.


  • Averted in Iron Man, where Tony Stark's suit of armor is made primarily of titanium, but he adds in some gold to the design to counteract the issue of icing once it reaches high altitudes.
    • Then again, titanium itself is often used as a 'always better than steel' metal in modern fiction, despite having some very real drawbacks. Iron Man's armor is quite thin, and while titanium is stronger than steel per kilogram/pound, it is not stronger per cm/inch thickness.
  • The same thing goes for Blade and other works of fiction using titanium swords. Titanium does not hold an edge, which is why it is not used in real blades.


  • "Jerusalem" mentions a "bow of burning gold". It's not clear whether it's actually burning (like the chariot of fire) or just metaphorically, or perhaps burnished gold, or even just a golden colour, but it's probably best not to read too much into it since the arrows are apparently made of desire...

Tabletop Games

  • Sen Zar swore by this, to the point that it managed to completely break the game. This is one of the many reasons why it's considered one of the worst tabletop roleplaying games ever devised.
  • Exalted features the five magical materials: orichalcum, moonsilver, jade, starmetal, and soulsteel. Each one has a somewhat exotic origin in the setting (orichalcum must be forged by a Solar from pure gold in the heart of a volcano using mirrors to capture sunlight; moonsilver must be forged in the depths of the Wyld; jade comes in many varieties and is found in the very depths of the earth; starmetal comes from the remains of dead gods; and soulsteel is made from boiled-down ghosts), and provides extra bonuses to the specific type of Exalted it's associated with (orichalcum for Solars, moonsilver for Lunars, jade for Dragon-Blooded, starmetal for Sidereals, and soulsteel for Abyssals). The bonuses are based on material; orichalcum is exemplary of the weapon or armor's quality, moonsilver is mercurial and ever-shifting, starmetal plays on fate itself to aid its bearer, and soulsteel focuses on causing pain or unnerving its bearer's foes.
  • Dungeons and Dragons has much of this trope, where armor and weapons can be made of many different materials, with different effects depending on the material - adamantine objects are heavy but nearly invulnerable, mithril items are generally lighter and more durable than steel. Ironwood is a type of wood that can be crafted into bladed weapons. These Ironwood weapons are chiefly used by druids, who have particular class-based issues involving wearing metal armor. Likewise, much of the leather items in the later game come from specific creatures (dragons primarily) where the quality and properties of the leather armor (leather, although it may be a heavy full plate set) is determined by the size and type of dragon. Druids are able to wear dragonscale armor, even if it is counted as a heavy armor.
    • Averted sometimes in 3rd edition - many advanced materials in fact make weapons less damaging than steel does. Alchemical Silver is an example.
    • Averted in 4th edition, where stronger types of armor are described as being made differently and more skilfully than generic types, without actually naming the materials used. For example, the Drakescale armor mimics the scale patterns of the drake creature; it is not described as actually being made out of scales from a drake.
      • Adamantine and Mithril items are now on the same standing as magical weapon properties. Silver, however, remains a separate property, meaning you can technically have a silver adamantine sword.
      • It'd probably be a silver-plated adamantine sword. The fluff actually describes it as such. The Silver Plating is to harm certain creatures.
  • Averted in GURPS while there are a bunch of materials for making weapons out of (stone, plastic, orichalcum etc) these these effects aren't quite as important as quality, though they can effect that highest level of quality available.

Video Games

  • In The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, Link's best one-handed sword is made by infusing his Razor Sword with high-quality gold dust. The Nintendo Power Strategy Guide lampshades it by saying the smith must have some mysterious process to make gold stronger than steel.
  • Chrono Cross had the best weapons available be crafted out of iridescent seashells. Sea. Shells.
    • Which is better explained in Chrono Trigger, where the shell is from a legendary creature.
    • The name of the frying pan weapon you can make using Rainbow Shell strongly implies that Rainbow Shell is in turn made of diamond, which is known for cutting well, but is so brittle that, as a weapon, it would shatter to pieces from the force of the first blow.
      • Well, it's got 'C6' in it (the silver version has Ag47). Make of that what you will.
    • It also swaps a few things in this list: it goes from bone items to bronze/copper, then iron/steel, then silver/mithril, then stone, and finally prism/rainbow/special.
  • Any of the Final Fantasy games prior to FF7. Steel equipment beats Iron equipment, but aren't as good as Gold equipment. Despite the fact that gold is a soft metal that's heavy like you wouldn't believe.
    • Subverted in Final Fantasy III, where gold swords and armor are little more than pricey Vendor Trash.
    • Final Fantasy XI makes steps to ensure that softer and weaker metals are either used as jewelery, or an alloy with a different material. Fantasy metals are in full force, however.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Gold, Diamond, Whateverium armors are noted in their descriptions as actually being gilded with gold, or studded with diamonds. It was actually better-crafted Steel Armor underneath.
    • Final Fantasy XII mentions that the "gold" used in weapons and armor is really a different magical metal, simply called "gold" because of its color.
  • Mostly averted in Dwarf Fortress. The general rule of thumb that "Adamantine>Steel>Iron>Bronze>Copper>Wood/Leather" still holds, but silver weapons are ranked alongside wooden ones, being next to useless for edged weapons. Material properties such as density are factored in, meaning that conversely, adamantine is near-useless for blunt weapons, while a silver hammer is actually relatively damaging due to its density (greater than iron). However, quality factors into weapons too, meaning that a "Masterful" or artifact iron sword is far preferable than a plain steel sword, although both are inferior to any admantine, which is ridiculously strong for edged weapons.
    • Wood (and silver) weapons are useful as training weapons, much like how they would be used in real life, because of the fact that they suck and are thus much less likely to cause serious sparring accidents.
      • While it is normally impossible to craft non-artifact items from more exotic materials, testing indicates that platinum may actually create deadlier blunt or edged weapons than steel. Certain extremely dense, exotic woods also make brutal blunt weapons.
      • There are even cases where the best metal for a single weapon isn't strictly tiered: as this thread shows, against Unobtainium armor, axe material makes extremely little difference, iron is the best sword material, and copper is the best spear material while against any other armor it follows the above mentioned order. Also, it seems unobtainium armor does little to protect against most bolts and arrows, even ones made of certain types of wood.
  • The Elder Scrolls games do it like there's no tomorrow. Later games feature multiple Elemental Crafting lines based on the weight/defense ratio of the armor or lethality of the weapon and gear made of different materials are more clearly crafted differently.
    • Daggerfall armor had a single crafting line: Leather<Chainmail<Iron/Steel<Silver/Elven<Dwarven<Mithril/Adamantium<Ebony<Orcish<Daedric.
    • In recent games, there are two Elemental Crafting lines: one for heavy armor and one for light armor. As of Oblivion, the sequence is Iron<Steel<Dwarven<Orcish<Ebony<Daedric for "heavy," and Fur<Leather<Chainmail<Mithril<Elven<Glass for "light."
    • Morrowind had a few unique armor types that skirted Elemental Crafting rules and and also substituted certain armor types for exotic local varieties. There was also a "medium" crafting line. A full list of all armor in the game, broken down by type and crafting line, is located here but highlights of the exotic differences include: Netch Leather (created from the hides of floating gelatinous creatures called Netches), Bonemold (soft shells hardened using a resin), Chitin (laminated shells from unnamed insects), and Dreugh (aqueous creatures called Dreugh, utilizing both shells and waxes). Arrows composed of "Corkbulb," a Vvardenfell root plant, can be found but are much weaker compared to normal arrows.
    • For clarification's sake:
      • Glass is the TES variation of Crystal. There are three "crystal" materials: basic green Glass ("rare metals and volcanic glass"), black Ebony (a much rarer, glossy type of glass), and red/black Daedric (ebony infused with a soul gem-entrapped Daedra). You can find Glass mines on Vvardenfell. TES Glass is light and flexible, different from real world (volcanic) glass.
      • "Glass armor" appears to be "glass-plated steel" rather than completely made of Glass. Glass weapons are usually made out of as much Glass as is reasonable, usually just bladed parts.
      • Dwarven/Dwemer weapons and armor are composed of an unnamed material that is generally dull yellow in color even when polished but is said to corrosion-resistant and can keep an edge. Some Dwemer-made weapons - the Trueflame and Hopesfire - do look different from the standard line.
      • Daggerfall has both near-Silver Elven and Mithril and they are consistently considered different materials and probably emerge from different races of Elves. (Mithril may have suffered Retcon.)
      • An easily overlooked subversion is that Orcish armor is made of ordinary iron but made using superior techniques. And presumably, given that it's heavy as hell, more iron. (It also used to be green.)
      • Skyrim retcons that, as we finally see the production process from the smith's viewpoint and discover that Orcish steel is actually an iron-orichalcum alloy.
      • Oblivion Iron and Steel have subtypes called "Rusty" and "Fine" that affect the value, damage, and durability of the weapon.
  • Crafting weapons and armor in Knights of the Old Republic games.
  • The creation of weapons, armor, and instruments in Legend of Mana are subject to this (there are some subtleties to the weapons and armor, but it's entirely to do with what materials you add and in what order.)
  • World of Warcraft partially averts this trope. The precious metals are used in crafting but in small quantities compared to the common material. For example, you make iron bombs that use gold wire for the detonator. Not completely averted because there's still a linear path of better metals, leather, and cloth to make stuff out of. The game also use a skill system, meaning that to try to make metal smelted from ore containing the blood of an old god (saronite) one has to have a lot of experience.
    • The full chain of metals found in World of Warcraft as of Cataclysm: Copper < Bronze/Silver < Iron/Gold < Steel < Mithril/Truesilver < Thorium/Enchanted Thorium < Dark Iron/Arcanite < Fel Iron/Eternium < Adamantite < Felsteel/Hardened Adamantite < Khorium < Cobalt < Saronite < Titanium < Titansteel < (Folded) Obsidium < Elementium < Hardened Elementium < Pyrium.
      • Elementium has been used here and there since the original game; making a couple of incredibly powerful weapons in WoW Classic and then used for flavor later on so signify luxury status. There are expensive rings with no stats made of elementium, and the game's custom-crafted motorcycles have elementium-plated exhaust pipes.
    • The important nature of druids and spirits of the natural world within the game and lore does screw up the order on a few occasions. One of the most famous orcs, Broxigar, lost his axe and had one gifted by a demigod - a wooden axe - and managed to wound Sargeras the Destroyer, Lord of the Burning Legion.
    • Lower level pieces of leather can be stitched together to make higher pieces. One can only imagine how heavy a wicked leather headband (made of 12 rugged leather or 1440 light leather) would be.
  • Averted in Azure Dreams for the Playstation, where the Gold Sword is one of the weakest weapons in the game, with an attack power of one. However, unlike other weapons, it's immune to the rust traps, which means a devoted player can actually make good use of the weapon by using Red Sands (though it would take * six* to make the Gold Sword as good as the otherwise strongest sword in the game). On the other hand, the Mirror Shield was better than most of the mundane shields, and also didn't rust (though the Diamond Shield was the best, as it too didn't rust).
  • All Fire Emblem games play this trope straight, with Silver Weapons being stronger, but more expensive, than Iron weapons.
    • Though on the other hand, higher classes of weapon like steel and silver tend to be heavier (which affects accuracy, movement, and the ability to dodge attacks), more fragile (they break after fewer hits), and have a lower critical hit rate. The latter quality sometimes makes the supposedly "weaker" iron weapons preferable to steel or silver ones.
    • Materials are never given for the most interesting weapons in the game, which either have properly fantastical names (Sol Katti), are taken directly from legend (Durandal), or have qualitative adjectives (Killer Axe, Brave Lance).
  • Stronger weapons and armour in Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon usually contain a high percentage of gold and/or silver, in addition to ordinary old bronze and iron.
  • RuneScape.
    • Played straight with craftable metal armor and leather (which comes in different colors of dragon hide), and even mage armor, which isn't exactly craftable. Gold and silver are usually reserved for enchantable jewellery, but five silver weapons exist: Wolfbane, the sickle, silver bolts, the rod of Ivandis, and the Ivandis Flail. All of them are weak, and only used because silver is the only thing that can hurt Vampyres. Wolfbane can also prevent werewolves from transforming. In RuneScape, silver and gold are depicted as very soft and weak elements as in Real Life.
    • This is taken to silly extents with woods; Oak bows aren't as good as maple bows which aren't as good as Yew bows, and so on. That's all well and fine. But the the game also has Woodchopping and Firemaking skills which follow the hierarchy of bowmaking, which means that Oak, well-known in real life to be rather dense and a pain in the ass to split, is much, much, much easier to chop down and make a fire out of than supple Yew trees.
    • Subverted the regular use of stone by introducing a line of obsidian items with unpronounceable names. Obsidian cloak?
      • It's explained as being made of thin obsidian plates. Still doesn't make that much sense.
    • And in dungeoneering skill, players can make promethium armor to wear. Promethium in real life would instantly kill a human if there was visible amounts of it.
  • The web-based MMO Mojo Ave parodied this with the "Gold Shovel" weapon, an obvious upgrade from the standard shovel weapon. It was frighteningly expensive (I think only one player ever purchased one) and had no attack power to speak of, since gold isn't exactly the best material to make a striking weapon out of. (How would you even lift it?)
  • In Animal Crossing you can get gold versions of just about any tool in the game, and they're all unbreakable.
    • Only the Golden Axe is unbreakable because the axe is the only item that breaks. The Golden Shovel gives you a higher chance to dig up random bags of money, the Golden Fishing Rod makes it easier to catch fish, and the Golden Bug Net is bigger and makes it easier to catch bugs. However, you would have already caught every single bug and fish to get the last two.
  • Played straight in Might and Magic 3-5. Items with no element have no modifiers, some materials (such as wood) impose a negative modifier but most give increased damage (weapons) or AC (armour). The games were noteworthy because gold was only a mid-road material, quickly surpassed by Platinum, Diamond and other precious stones. By far the most powerful material in the games was Obsidian.
  • Though it didn't involve crafting the "precious metal" part is subverted in Zack and Wiki: you can pick up a golden sword, however, if you fighting with it, it shatters instantly.
  • The obscure roguelike Elona has a sizable list of materials, covering the standard materials as well as a few others. Somewhat averted, though, as the materials often have special properties such as improving stats or granting resistances which make most materials good for something, and some materials may be worse for weapons than they are for armor, or vice-versa. Each material falls into one of three tiers, however, explicitly referred to as inferior, normal, and superior.
  • The equally obscure Rage of Mages follows the trope to a T: weapons and armor go Bronze<Iron<Steel<Mithril<Adamantine<Meteoric<Crystal.
    • With the crystal being rose quartz. So yeah, the most powerful armor in the game makes you look like a raging queen.
      • That's Adamantine, actually. Crystal weapons and armor are green.
  • Kingdom of Loathing probably had this in mind with its craftable gear. The low tier materials are bubblewrap, cardboard, and styrofoam (all built upon the main raw material, meat). The higher tier is asbestos, linoleum, and chrome. Then again, using currency as something to make weapons and armour out of — especially if said currency isn't really a feasible weapon or armour material — does fit here, doesn't it?
    • Finish the main quest and you may gain an item from one of the really powerful materials - stainless steel, plexiglass, or even brimstone.
      • The Sea Floor has the deepest mine in the game, where a diligent diver can acquire some of the most powerful ores in the game - vinyl, velcro, and teflon.
      • Then, there's the epic-level (and costing hundreds of thousands of Meat, unless you win a coupon in the lottery) Grimacite, which is made from moon rocks.
  • Likewise, Billy vs. SNAKEMAN has this in its Robo Fighto minigame. The parts you can use are cardboard (rank G), tinfoil (rank F), (styro)foam (rank E), and Named Weapons which do not list their composition. There are currently no parts of ranks D through A (which would presumably be for "real" materials).
  • The most common and weakest weapons in Avernum 1 and 2 are made out of stone. Anything made out of iron or steel is rarer (and hence better). Justified in-game as Avernum not having the proper resources to mine, smelt, and forge all the metal they need. Magic items are even rarer still. Any metal or enchanted weapon was either smuggled down from the surface or made by someone very skilled.
    • Similarly, in the Exile games, of which the Avernum games are an updated version, it went stone, bronze, iron, steel, magic.
  • Averted in Mabinogi. All weapons, armours, shields, and tools in the game are made from iron; with a few, very specific, exceptions. The only other materials involved are those which would normally be used in constructing real-life gear — such as leather, wood, silk or woolen cloth and cord, etc. — and those needed in order to imbue the gear with magical properties (only applies to a few specific armours). Precious metals (copper, silver, gold, and mithril) are used only decoratively; as furnishings or as a "finish" to decide the final colour. Cost doesn't depend on the materials, but on the quality, complexity, and effectiveness of the gear.
    • The only non-magical exceptions are the practice sword, the great mallet, the club, the stick, and the broad stick; all of which are wood, the last two also being crude clubs. They are also the weakest weapons in the game; although like almost all weapons, they can be magically enhanced.
    • All other examples are magically crafted from a variety of improbable materials. These are typically quest-related or event-only items; and often have a limited lifespan, or are single-use.
    • Bows and crossbows cannot be crafted currently, but appear to be made from the normal combinations of wood, leather, and/or bone. Arrows are crafted normally from wood and iron; with the exception of certain magical arrows, which are quest-related drops.
  • The weapon side of this isn't extremely prominent in Nethack, as which race made it tends to be what distinguishes better and worse weapons, but silver weapons are explicitly better than iron ones because they never rust and do extra damage to demons and werecreatures. Wooden elven weapons also tend to be better than their iron equivalents because a lot more enemies and traps have passive rust attacks than passive rotting or burning attacks (also because elves made them). All mundane weapons pale in comparison to named artifacts (including many like Excalibur or Mjollnir, which you can in fact Dual Wield if you're playing the SLASH-EM mod and are likely to for much of the game if playing the right build), but among those the silver saber Grayswandir is generally considered the strongest in the game. One odd quirk is that the only sabers in the game (and thus the only ones to use the saber weapon skill) are silver sabers--plain iron ones don't exist.
    • Armor follows this religiously, though--leather armor is light and allows spellcasting but doesn't do much and can burn; iron armor is heavy and ruins spellcasting and can rust but provides increasingly more protection as you move from ring mail up to plate mail; mithril armor is very light, mostly indestructable and blocks more damage than all but the best iron armor but still ruins spellcasting; and dragon scale mail blocks more damage than anything else, is nearly weightless, doesn't interfere with spellcasting, is as durable as mithril and provides a magical effect depending on the dragon (the most powerful being "wands and breath attacks bounce back at anyone who tries to use them on you" or "you are immune to or take half damage from virtually any nonelemental magic, including many traps, some inventory-wrecking spells and many instant death effects", depending on which you can find another source for), but generally has to be "crafted" yourself or wished for (and generally requires slaying an adult dragon, of course). There's also an extremely heavy suit of glass armor which allows spellcasting, won't burn or rust and is only fragile if you're not wearing it, and which provides better protection than anything except dragon scales and its iron equivalent, but for those with the maximum possible strength it takes up almost half of your carrying capacity just to lift it or the iron equivalent.
  • Dragon Age uses this heavily, as well, with leather, metal and wood all coming in seven tiers (there are also different types within one tier, such as scale armor, chainmail, etc, which have identical properties but give different 'set bonuses' for wearing matching armor, boots and gloves).
    • Partial aversion in that many particularly well-made items (Certain named weapons, Dalish leather, anything by Wade) are significantly above others made of the same material. Magical items are also above average for their tier, but those don't really count.
  • The Last Remnant uses this, to some measure. While it's not obivious, there's a rigid scale between the metals needed to upgrade/create 90% of the weapons, which goes (YMMV) this way: Light Metal < Jhana Alloy < Iron < Steel < Vackel Iron < Royotian Steel < Crimson Ore < Necrotic Metal < Damascus Ore < Jewel Steel.
  • Final Fantasy Legend armor normally bronze > gold > silver (mithril) > dragon (elemental) > Arthur (historical legendary) > Parasuit. The strongest sword weapon of the game is the Glass Sword which naturally breaks in after one use (in a game where all weapons have limited usage.)
  • Played with in Phantasy Star IV: Some weapons and armor are said to be made of Titanium, Carbon, or Graphite, and the "Silver" of certain items is actually a colloquialism for a low-grade version of Unobtanium.
    • The item descriptions state graphite suit is "made of special graphite fiber." Per Wikipedia: The name "graphite fiber" is also sometimes used to refer to carbon fiber or carbon fiber-reinforced polymer.
  • Averted for the most part in the Total War series, where the armor of any particular unit is determined by two things: the basic equipment and purchasing power of the troops (i.e. nobles and merchant militia can afford better arms and armor than commoner soldiers, who can afford/are outfitted with better gear than peasant militias) and also by the facilities you build in a particular settlement. In order to fully equip a unit you'll need to upgrade to leather tanners, then blacksmiths, then armorers, and so on. Thus, materials are generally irrelevant to how well-armored your troops are.
  • Used in Castlevania generally, but played with in Order of Ecclesia. The Blacksmith in it needs gold ore to make his best armour, but says this is because armour needs to be able to take hits and the gold allows for flexibility.
  • Diablo has this in a slightly unusual form; they have a rather standard set of metals and gems, but mechanically they're treated like any other magical item power, so an "Iron Short Sword" or "Bronze Dagger" is considered a magic item by the game. In the original Diablo, the useful metals are Bronze < Iron < Steel < Silver < Gold < Platinum < Mithril < Meteoric; the negative ones are Tin and Brass. Gems provide elemental resistances; Topaz < Amber < Jade < Obsidian < Emerald give across-the-board resistance to everything. The specific resistances are colors (Red and Crimson for fire, White for magic, Blue for lightning, etc.) at the lower levels, but become gems when more powerful; Pearl < Ivory < Crystal < Diamond for resistance to general 'magic', Garnet < Ruby for fire, Lapis < Cobalt (OK, it's a metal, not a gem) < Sapphire for lightning.
    • Diablo 2 adds even more (and changes the meaning of some of them, the 'blue' series (Lapis, Sapphire etc) become cold resistance, as that element was added for Diablo 2; as generic "magic" resistance was removed, Amber becomes Lightning resistance, and Jade and Emerald become Poison resistance (poison as an elemental damage type is also a Diablo 2 addition).
  • Played straight in Minecraft, where you can make tools out of Wood, Stone, Iron, Gold, or Diamond and armor out of Leather, Iron, Gold, or Diamond; except that Gold is soft and lasts no better than Wood. However, gold tools are faster even than diamond as of a recent update, though still rarely used due to gold's other uses and the low durability.
  • Also played straight in Terraria. You start out with Wood, then move up through Copper, Iron, Silver, and Gold to Demonite, Meteoric Iron, Hellstone, Cobalt, Mythril, Adamantite, and finally, Hallowed.
  • Sword of Mana maintains a surprising variety of materials for equipment. There are eight classes of materials: cloth, wood, leather, bone, metal, scale, meteorite, and stone. Each has it's own internal hierarchy; cotton < silk, bronze < iron, etc. There are then two broad gear categories: fighter-type heavy armor and mage-type light armor. Any given piece of equipment can be made from several different material classes, leading to the Hero wearing a bone breastplate and metal gauntlets while the Heroine wears a cloth robe and wooden sandals. A given material class isn't "better" than another but they give different properties to the equipment they make. A few highlights of the more unique materials include: hemp, felt, fossilized bone and wood, two regional kinds of iron, a nondescript "alloy" metal, lead, marble, pegasus hide, and a full class of Thunderbolt Iron.
  • In Infinite Undiscovery, there are distinct tiers for each equipment type, all by material. Gets particularly ridiculous when you realize two characters use magic books for weapons, and the material used to make the paper and quill will determine what books you can write.
  • Monster Hunter
  • Tales of Maj Eyal has a different hierarchy for metals, wood, cloth, and leather.

Web Original

  • The Chaos Fighters series is rife with this, ranging from usual for a fiction (pure metal and alloyed equipment) to absurd (metal threads and composites made from radically different constituents). It's hard to imagine when one can create a composite material which is made from gemstones, metals, concrete, wood and fiberglass.
  • In Zero Punctuation, when Yahtzee played Minecraft, he recounts assuming this trope was in effect and forging himself a suit of gold armor and weapons, only to discover that gold doesn't make very good armor or weapons.

Web Comics

  • Happens with star metal in Order of the Stick: adding a nugget of it to a sword makes it stronger, tougher, and sharper, plus glows in the presence of The Undead. Justified because its unusual properties are being added to make the sword a steel-starmetal alloy, so the normal properties of steel still apply.
    • In fact the blacksmith specifically points out that a blade of pure starmetal would be too heavy to lift and would require every piece of starmetal ever discovered.
  • Lance daydreams about diamond armor from Gold Coin Comics.
  • Axe Cop has the Golden Chainsaw and Axe Cop's secret Golden Axe.

Western Animation

  • Dave the Barbarian gave us Strom the Slayer and his Golden Triaxe, which is at worst is shown as strong as any iron weapon, to which Fang admits to falling into Rule of Cool.