Created By: Westrim on December 21, 2011 Last Edited By: Westrim on May 22, 2014
Nuked

Protagonists Have Bigger Squads

Oh look, another pair of bandits for our FiveManBand to annihilate

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Trope
The protagonists of the story face long odds. They live In a World full of baddies, whether working together as part of some larger group or bandits/pirates/et cetera, and working alone is a quick way to early death. Luckily they manage to gather or join a group willing to fight together. The group may even have complementary skill sets. There's still a large number of enemies out there though, so they better hope they're in a story that doesn't throw them at more than they can handle.

And indeed, despite the overall long odds the group will encounter only encountering only a couple of enemies a time- guards out on patrol, bandits in the woods, and so on. Or the group can successfully engineer circumstances such that a more cohesive enemy doesn't get too many forces positioned against them at any one time. The enemies may be kept manageable by a Sorting Algorithm of Evil so that whether it be one one Elite Mook or five particularly vicious bushes, they will be easily defeatable by working together.

This is most commonly a Video Game Trope, but occurs in other media as well.

Related to Mook Chivalry and Conservation of Ninjutsu, but both focus on large numbers of enemies versus small numbers of protagonists. May be accomplished via divide and conquer.
Examples:
  • In Red Garden the four girls take on the monsters they're fighting one at a time, but it's mostly justified due to their low skill level and the way the creatures are cornered for them to fight.
  • In The Lost Fleet, Captain Jack Geary goes to great lengths to make sure this is the case on the long trip home, constantly changing course and occasionally jumping even further into enemy territory so the enemy Syndics have to divide their forces to find him, and so if he does encounter them they'll be small enough to defeat. It happens often enough that even in retreat he destroys the majority of the much larger Syndic fleet.
  • In Raiders of Gor Bosk leads 30 ships into battle against a much larger fleet, but he devises his strategy so that in any given ship-to-ship combat his ships are always 2 on 1 against the enemy's ships.
  • In First Lensman the Triplanetary fleet devises a formation called a Battle Cylinder. Correctly deployed, it can force each enemy ship to face odds of up to two hundred to one, even if as a whole the enemy fleet has equal numbers.
  • In many RPGs the villains/random enemies rarely attack in well-balanced specialized groups, and even fellow adventurers only come in pairs, at most. It is very rare that you see a Non-Player Party that actually functions and interacts as a team, rather than say, the bad guy and four random mooks devoid of personality.
  • Most Golden Sun battles pit your group of four adventurers against a couple of monsters at a time- occasionally you'll meet four or five, but most of them will be the weakest in the area. In addition, the monsters never have a balanced team like you do, so they often can't heal damage.
  • In Pokémon it's only towards the end of the game that you'll encounter trainers with numbers of pokemon even approaching the six you likely had by the second gym (bug trainers exempted due to lower levels). Nearly all of them have only have two or three.
  • Often happened in the Sonic the Hedgehog series due to later installments Loads and Loads of Characters syndrome. Sonic Heroes has at exactly a dozen characters (albeit divided into four teams) against Dr Eggman and later Metal Sonic. Later games have subverted this and reverted back to using Sonic as the only playable character.
    • The Archie comics take it even further with an enormous number of Freedom Fighters both from the games and alternate medias. While Eggman and other baddies have varied numbers of allies, even their generic Mooks sometimes don't level up to the numbers of the heroes.
  • Zig-Zagged all over the place for the Final Fantasy series. Played straight in early JRP Gs like the early Dragon Quest titles.
  • Tended to happen in most Transformers media, especially the animes. Transformers Energon took this Up to Eleven, while almost two dozen Autobots appeared through out the show's run, the Decepticons rarely exceeded six or seven. Adding to that Decepticons were the only Transformers Killed Off for Real and half of them were a near harmless Quirky Miniboss Squad.
  • In Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, There can only be 3 enemies in battle at once. You, however, can have up to 4 squads (for a total of 11 participants on the protagonist's side):
    • First squad is The Hero and whichever Action Girl came into the labyrinth with you.
    • The other three squads are made up of 3 Star Children each.

Community Feedback Replies: 53
  • December 21, 2011
    deuxhero
    One of the first things pointed out to new dungeon masters by veterans of Dungeons And Dragons is using this trope is a bad idea, as the way the action economy works makes it so 4 P Cs utterly cream 1 Big Bad thanks to being able to act 4 times as much.
  • December 21, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Always fill out the "Laconic" field of your YKTTW with a Tweet-size definition of your trope. It really helps.

    This is probably already covered by Mook Chivalry, one point of which is how Mooks take on the heroes in small groups rather than attempting to attack en-masse. One of the major reasons for it is cinematography.
  • December 30, 2011
    Westrim
    Filled out the intro, though it could use more work, and took advice into account.
  • December 30, 2011
    Psi001
    • Tended to happen in most Transformers medias, especially the animes. Transformers Energon took this Up To Eleven, while almost two dozen Autobots appeared through out the show's run, the Decepticons rarely exceeded six or seven. Adding to that Decepticons were the only Transformers Killed Off For Real and half of them were a near harmless Quirky Miniboss Squad.
    • Often happened in the Sonic The Hedgehog series due to later installments Loads And Loads Of Characters syndrome. Sonic Heroes has at exactly a dozen characters (albeit divided into four teams) against Dr Eggman and later Metal Sonic. Later games have subverted this and reverted back to using Sonic as the only playable character.
      • The Archie comics take it even further with an enormous number of Freedom Fighters both from the games and alternate medias. While Eggman and other baddies have varied numbers of allies, even their generic Mooks sometimes don't level up to the numbers of the heroes.
  • December 30, 2011
    Koveras
    What I have noticed about many modern RPGs is that not only the villains/random enemies rarely attack in well-balanced specialized groups, but even fellow adventurers only come in pairs, at most. It is very rare that you see a Non-Player Party that actually functions and interacts as a team, rather than say, the bad guy and four random mooks devoid of personality.
  • December 30, 2011
    captainpat
    Shouldn't this be "Villain Have Superior Numbers"? I can understand if the title is aiming for cleverness, but it's kinda at the expense of clarity.
  • December 30, 2011
    Westrim
    No, it's about the protagonists having the numerical advantage every time they get into combat. I'm not sure what's unclear or in any way implies that the villains should replace the protagonists; the title and laconic version seem straightforward, and the intro consists of the standard overall setting, an explanation of the trope, and related tropes.
  • December 30, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Raiders of Gor Bosk leads 30 ships into battle against a much larger fleet, but he devises his strategy so that in any given ship-to-ship combat his ships are always 2 on 1 against the enemy's ships.
  • January 1, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Needs A Better Title. Simply saying "superior numbers" implies a big-picture perspective, and the typical big-picture perspective is that the heroes are the ones outnumbered.
  • January 19, 2012
    Westrim
    You're right, but I'm at a loss as to how to get the point across. Does anyone have any suggestions?
  • January 19, 2012
    ScanVisor
    Zig-Zagged all over the fuckin place for the Final Fantasy series. Played straight in early JRP Gs like the early Dragon Quest titles.
  • February 23, 2012
    Westrim
    Still looking for title suggestions.
  • March 16, 2012
    dalek955
    • In First Lensman the Triplanetary fleet devises a formation called a Battle Cylinder. Correctly deployed, it can force each enemy ship to face odds of up to two hundred to one, even if as a whole the enemy fleet has equal numbers.

    Protagonists Have Bigger Squads?
  • March 16, 2012
    Westrim
    Hmm. Better than Protagonists Have Superior Numbers at least, but it still seems awkward.
  • March 17, 2012
    Koveras
    • In Uncharted Waters (particularly the second game), each ship of your flotilla is navigated by a member of your Player Party with his unique skills and stats. However, no matter how numerous the enemy fleets are, each ship in them seems to be steered by the same guy, namely, their flagship captain.
  • March 17, 2012
    dalek955
    ^ That's a case of You All Look Familiar.
  • March 19, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Nah, I meant that each fleet is captained by a unique character with their own portrait. However, all ships in their respective fleet use the overall captain's stats for damage and speed calculations, as opposed to your fleet, whose ships' movements depend only on their respective navigators.
  • March 20, 2012
    dalek955
    ^I know what you meant. This trope is about, say, 5:2 odds. Your example would be 5:5 odds, but with only one face for all 5 of the enemy. That's garden-variety cookie-cutter enemies, which go under You All Look Familiar.
  • February 1, 2013
    Excise
    Not sure if this is actually more common than its reversal (villains having hordes of guys), but in the cases where both the heroes and villains are unique (read: named) characters, I could see heroes often getting more folks.

    Example: Transformers Generation 1 had this early on, with the Autobots outnumbering the Decepticons. Individual episodes would sometimes state that the Decepticons had the advantage, hoping that the viewers couldn't count. Part of this was because the show was Merchandise Driven, and back then it was assumed heroes would sell better.
  • May 14, 2014
    CosmeF
    It happens a lot in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Part 3. The heroes are five, but the villains ambush them one by one, sometimes in pairs. Justified, since most of the enemies want to keep their identities and abilities a secret.
  • May 14, 2014
    DAN004
    Not sure if tropeworthy, honestly... or at least this is a pattern that isn't so striking to me.
  • May 14, 2014
    MorningStar1337
    I'm not sure the title is still clear enough. "bigger squad" to me implies more people ergo the title implies to me that the trope is reversed.
  • May 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
  • May 15, 2014
    DAN004
    Let me guess: it actually isn't that the protagonist have a squad. It's more like the villains tend to come one (or at least a few) at a time.

  • May 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ That makes it plain Mook Chivalry.
  • May 15, 2014
    Westrim
    Why are you guessing, DAN? Is the laconic not clear? Are the terms 'five', 'pair' and 'couple' too vague? Are the examples not legible?

    I'm being flippant but really, I'm not sure how there is confusion. Bigger squad means more people, it doesn't imply it, and I don't understand what Morning Star means by reversed. Reversed from what?

    So to be clear; the trope is that in a given encounter, the protagonists have numerical superiority over the antagonists. 5 good guys vs. 2 bad guys, something like that.

    This is not an inversion of conservation of ninjutsu because it's not usually a matter of power, but a matter of balance.
  • May 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ what's so special about having our protagonists in more numbers than the antagonist? What does it imply?
  • May 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ This is the million dollar question.

    to be more clear on his "what does it imply" question.

    People Sit On Chairs vs Slouch Of Villainy.

    Slouch Of Villainy "implies" a villain has a "don't give a damn" attitude about things because of how he sits.

    People Sit On Chairs, villain sits on a chair, nothing more. << Not A Trope, doesn't imply anything.

    Here, the situation is

    You see <insert whatever meaning outnumbering enemies have>.

    We see "Protagonist outnumber enemies", nothing more.

    Which is Not A Trope via People Sit On Chairs.
  • May 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ who are you talking to and who are you talking about? :P
  • May 15, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^^^ Isn't the answer to that kind of obvious? Like The Hero facing multiple enemies at once establishes him/her as a One Man Army and a Badass, the villain taking on several heroes at the same time ramps up the villain threat.
  • May 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ except none of the examples actually paint the villain as a "bigger threat".

    Almost all are just "villains don't gang up on the heroes".

    some are also just "enemy appears and fights alone".

    So? What about either? Why do they do it? does it characterize them (sort of) in any way like Mook Chivalry does?
  • May 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Also, @DAN 004, you and the OP.
  • May 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^^ S. Slave nailed it.

    At least if what you said is true, then each example should note that the protagonists need to team up against the particular threat.
  • May 15, 2014
    bitemytail
    • In Conception 2 Children Of The Seven Stars, There can only be 3 enemies in battle at once. You, however, can have up to 4 squads (for a total of 11 participants on the protagonist's side):
      • First squad is The Hero and whichever Action Girl came into the labyrinth with you.
      • The other three squads are made up of 3 Star Children each.
  • May 17, 2014
    Westrim
    I find it very hard to follow the interplay between Shanghai and Dan, so I can't really respond to it until either one clarifies in complete sentences.

    Paradise is mostly right, although the enemies aren't necessarily powerful enough to fight any of your party 1 on 1. The implication, however, is still that together the group is stronger than they are apart, so an enemy or two that would be a major pain for any one of them can be taken out in two turns by their combined efforts.

    I'm going to try a food analogy.
    • Protagonists Have Bigger Squads is a group of five friends working their way through all 152 varieties that their pizza shop offers, but rather than doing it all at once they order two pizzas per meal, so that between the five of them they can finish those off and come back at dinner for the next two. The friends have different traits to make eating the pizza easier- one brought beer, another has the pizza cutter, another reminds them to chew thoroughly, another reminds them of their objective, and last really likes crusts.
    • Mook Chivalry is one person having five pizzas one after another in one sitting, completing one before moving to the next one, rather than having slices in a random order.
    • Conservation Of Ninjutsu is a competitive eater that can eat ten pizzas in one sitting.

    I'm considering changing the name to Protagonists Have Bigger Parties, but I'm concerned that could get taken in the birthday or rave party sense.
  • May 17, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Haha... so now me and DAN 004 are some sort of Boke And Tsukkomi Routine? I like that idea.

    Well, that aside. Your trope then, is basically defeat in detail (which i found by googling Divide And Conquer)? "Defeat the enemy in tiny chunks" is basically what it boils down to in that case.

    However, I'm not seeing the trope here simply because none of your examples are "a group of friends tackling 152 varieties of pizza two at a time". That's a clear representation of your trope by the way. GJ.:

    example, let's take Red Garden. the example is written in a way that it is done for them. meaning, something else other than your trope is in play.

    Pokemon is simply Sorting Algorithm Of Evil by numbers.

    The trope you want, goes like this:
    • In Tales Of Troperia. The Five Man Band sets up a pseudo-obstacle course in the castle they are defending to divide the enemy ranks, enabling them to let each of the combat oriented members to tackle smaller groups of The Horde instead of all of them at once, since they'd be at a disadvantage considering they're literally holed up an a tight spot.

    Is that what you're trying to make here?
  • May 17, 2014
    Westrim
    No.

    Defeat in detail is similar, and I considered it as a trope name but decided against because it implies one large enemy group. That's not necessarily the case, which is why bandits are the example in the laconic, not guards. There may not be a horde, just lots of individual or small groups of monsters out in the wilds looking for lunch.

    I feel like I'm restating the description, not actually giving additional perspective.

    EDIT: Now I actually restated the description, fleshing out and changing most of it.
  • May 17, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ your change seems to make your trope sound more "Enemies Dont Gang Up On Heroes".

    Also, your examples still disagree with your description.
  • May 17, 2014
    DAN004
    I guess there are 2 scenario here: both with a squad protagonist, against a threat smaller in number. However:
    • in one scenario, the threat is connected to the other threats that comes after that. Common in fighting against large organization where the squad fights their members a few at a time.
    • the other, however, is when the threats aren't connected. One day it's two bank robbers, another day it's three serial killers, yet another day it's two jaywalkers...

    So... what would we do with them?
  • May 17, 2014
    acrobox
    I think what this is trying to get at is that hero teams are tpically large (about 5 people) who all have roles and character development

    Unless a Bad guy team is a full Five Bad Band or Psycho Rangers they dont get as much character development. So to avoid being a horde of Faceless Mooks, they will typically be in teams smaller than the heroes just so theyre not alone.
  • May 18, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that's... really different.
  • May 18, 2014
    acrobox
    A lot of examples here dont fit the description, i was just trying to think of another way to keep this from being Chairs.
  • May 18, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ So... everybody including the OP is Dramatically Missing The Point here?
  • May 18, 2014
    acrobox
    I have no idea what the point is . . . i'll excuse myself from this one
  • May 18, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ it's a definitive sign for discarding, if you ask me.
  • May 18, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^ lol, washing hands eh? Now it makes me wonder if we have Pulling A Pilate trope.

    ^ Well, I guess we're having a Two Bit Hero moment here. I say it was a character, turned out it was a plot.

    here he says something, turns out it's something else.
  • May 19, 2014
    Westrim
    Dang, I'm not very clear on what any of you three are saying.

    Dan's comment from the 17th is pretty accurate though, except I emphasize the at that time nature of the threat numbers, and say that the differences between those two scenarios is irrelevant for this trope. There's plenty of tropes for bandits, guards, nebulous evils, and random monsters. There are also several for the number of protagonists dealing with the thread versus the numbers of the threat.

    What's important is the numbers are imbalanced in favor of the protagonists. What's unique and makes chairs inapplicable is the cohesiveness of the protagonists backing up their numerical advantage, whether it's because they manipulated the situation to give them that advantage, they're better balanced than the enemy, they're more attractive, or some other factor that combines with that numerical advantage to give them victory. There's lots of variation in how they back up their numbers, which is why most examples say what the variation is, which appears to be getting misread by some as not fitting the trope.
  • May 19, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    • In Red Garden the four girls take on the monsters they're fighting one at a time, but it's mostly justified due to their low skill level and the way the creatures are cornered for them to fight. (i.e. the team has nothing to do with the creatures getting cornered)
    • nothing to bold in these, no "manipulated the situation to give them that advantage" at all. which is what you claim the trope herein is. These are all "enemies don't gang up on heroes for some reason". A mere observation.
      • In many RP Gs the villains/random enemies rarely attack in well-balanced specialized groups, and even fellow adventurers only come in pairs, at most. It is very rare that you see a Non-Player Party that actually functions and interacts as a team, rather than say, the bad guy and four random mooks devoid of personality.
      • In Pokemon it's only towards the end of the game that you'll encounter trainers with numbers of pokemon even approaching the six you likely had by the second gym (bug trainers exempted due to lower levels). Nearly all of them have only have two or three.
      • Often happened in the Sonic the Hedgehog series due to later installments Loads and Loads of Characters syndrome. Sonic Heroes has at exactly a dozen characters (albeit divided into four teams) against Dr Eggman. Later games have subverted this and reverted back to using Sonic as the only playable character.
      • Zig-Zagged all over the place for the Final Fantasy series. Played straight in early JRP Gs like the early Dragon Quest titles. (Zero Context Example)
      • Tended to happen in most Transformers media, especially the animes. Transformers Energon took this Up to Eleven, while almost two dozen Autobots appeared through out the show's run, the Decepticons rarely exceeded six or seven. Adding to that Decepticons were the only Transformers Killed Off for Real and half of them were a near harmless Quirky Miniboss Squad.
      • In Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, There can only be 3 enemies in battle at once. You, however, can have up to 4 squads (for a total of 11 participants on the protagonist's side)
  • May 19, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    long story short. you're saying your trope is your pizza analogy and yet half your examples are observations about protagonists outnumbering their enemies for no stated reason.
  • May 19, 2014
    DAN004
    If the examples make it clear that it's the numbers that gives them advantage, then it should count.
  • May 19, 2014
    FastEddie
    Is this about the size of a threat being tailored to the characters' capabilities? I'm not at all sure that this happens all that much in literature. Small bands avoid larger bands. Pretty easy for a small band to outrun an army.
  • May 20, 2014
    Westrim
    I agree that there are media in which this is less likely to occur, but that's true of a lot of tropes. This one is likely concentrated in video games. The three literary examples are all strategic fleet on fleet maneuvers, so they combine their numbers with wits to succeed; their 'squad' is much larger than the laconics five, but that combination fits the trope.
  • May 22, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    discarded because actual Trope remains unidentified.
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