QuantityVsQuality Quantity vs. Quality YKTTW Discussion

Quantity vs. Quality
There's always an inverse relationship of quantity and quality. A Trope in Aggregate.
Needs Examples
(permanent link) added: 2012-12-18 16:48:43 sponsor: WaxingName (last reply: 2013-01-26 07:57:03)

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A Trope in Aggregate. In fiction, when it comes to almost everything that comes in multiples, there's an inverse relationship between quantity and quality. The more there is of something, the lower the quality of those individual things and vice versa.

This has roots in basic resource management and production. Assuming you have a constant supply of resources, the more resources you put into producing a product, the higher-quality the product will be in the end. However, the less of the product you will able to produce in the end. You could choose to put less resources into producing individual products in order to produce more, but the quality of the products decrease. Trying to make more of a product and make them high-quality is generally impractical due to resource and time constraints.

At times Quantity and Quality is used as the basis for An Aesop. Most aesops take the side of quality, saying that it's best to put effort into the individual creations.

  • Conservation of Ninjutsu (Quantity vs Quality of Mooks)
  • Diminishing Returns (Quantity vs Quality of people in a project)
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts refers to video game characters who deal relatively small amounts of damage compared to other characters from his or her game but can deal a larger amount of them. How effective this is depends on the game.
  • Faction Calculus: "Powerhouses" tend towards quality while "Subversives" are more inclined towards quantity.
  • Spam Attack, where the solution when shooting at something doesn't work is to shoot even more of it. This one is obviously rooted in quantity, though people characterized by it are rarely portrayed as sympathetic or intelligent.
  • Power Equals Rarity (Quantity vs Quality of artifacts and weapons)
  • Rain of Arrows is the same applied to arrows rather than firearms, and both good guys and bad guys employ it about equally.
  • Quality over Quantity (An Aesop that takes the side of Quality)
  • We Have Reserves is the idea that troops are expendable because there are so many available. This is never shown in a good light.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer (Quantity vs Quality of skills with weapons)
  • Zerg Rush (Quantity vs Quality of Mooks where Quantity wins)

Subtrope of Necessary Drawback.


  • In Honor Harrington this trope is played both ways. There are tradeoffs between more effective missiles and being able to spam more and more missiles. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other wins.
    • Also the war between the Empire of Manticore and the Solarian League. The Solarians have more superdreadnaughts than Manticore has cruisers, but their technology is several centuries out of date because no one has dared fight them until now while the Empire has been dealing with pirates and Haven for a long time so they've got a healthy R&D program. Manticore's tacticians are more concerned about running out of ammo than ships. Both sides have remained fairly even.

  • Five Iron Frenzy referenced this with their EP Quantity Is Job 1. It had 17 tracks, more than either of their prior CDs, but only seven of them were proper songs. The remaining ten songs are all nonsense the band improvised while goofing around in the studio--eight of these comprise "These Are Not My Pants (A Rock Opera)", which was deliberately intended to be a joke at the listener's expense.

Newspaper Comics
  • During the 2000s Time Skip in Funky Winkerbean, Funky took over management of the cast hangout Montoni's Pizza and opened several franchises. The other cast members including its former owner eventually took him aside and had him compare the pizza made to the recipe from when Montoni's was a single pizzeria to the current recipe, and apparently the former was superior to the latter.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40K and Warhammer: in addition to the orks, the settings have the Tyranids and Skaven respectively, whose main tactics are to send waves of easily-destroyed critters at defenders to get them to waste their ammo before sending in waves of stronger units.
  • The Imperial Guard versus the Adeptus Astartes. The Guard is a billions-strong army of normal humans armed with laser rifles and body armor that are frequently compared in effectiveness with flashlights and t-shirts, and often act as the Redshirt Army in fluff and novels. The Space Marines, on the other hand, are made up of Super Soldiers genetically altered to be roughly seven feet tall with Healing Factor and various ancillary abilities depending on chapter, and dressed in Powered Armor and wielding fully automatic rocket-propelled grenade launchers. But since their chapters are limited in size to about a thousand men apiece, they don't have the numbers to fight full-scale wars by themselves. Thus the two armies frequently work in tandem: the Guard provides the numbers and acts as the hammer, while the Space Marines perform surgical attacks and act as the sword-point.

Video Games
  • In Europa Universalis nations can opt for a quality policy, getting better troops or for a quantity policy, resulting in a higher manpower pool and cheaper troops. Neutral or mild stances are possible, since the internal policies are gradually set by a slider.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has Crossroads Keep. Woe to those who find out too late that the entry requirements for troops can only be lowered, from a few good men to any drunk who wanders in accidentally.
  • Dawn of War: the orks have an upgrade that allows their cheapest unit to be produced for free (except food costs). Meaning you can have 25 squads of melee units constantly pouring into an enemy's base, and while it will take a while, this will eventually win.
  • Warcraft III's Necromancers can pull this off, as their basic skill raises two weak skeletons from a corpse, quickly snowballing into a tide of skeletons.
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