In most isometric games that have character animation, the sprites are rendered from a 3D model with animation, hence there is little redundant work should anything change happen during production such as change of an animation sequence. So the equipments are naturally fit on to a 3D model and can be swapped in an out for other equipments, and then rendered again for various animation, usually without the body beneath.
Here's roughly how it works
- you have base animation of a character run, idle, attack (3 naked body animations x 8 directions)
- then you have equipment 1 rigged onto the model and render 3 more animations for run, idle, attack (3 equipment 1 animations x 8 directions)
- do the same for the next piece of equipment etc.
A few things to note, with 8 direction sprites 3 directions are mirrored from the other ones so you don't need to render all 8 directions. a lot of 2D games are also rendered that look 2D, but there are games I believe that would draw them too with few directions such as some face book flash games, it works the same way, except it is very tedious work to draw them.
If you need Isometric map items such as rock trees and other props for your game you can check our isometric game assets from Super Game Asset.
Let me know what kind do you need, we have a lot of game resource in our database that is not up yet.