Created By: WaxingName on December 18, 2012 Last Edited By: WaxingName on January 26, 2013
Troped

Quantity vs. Quality

There's always an inverse relationship of quantity and quality. A Trope in Aggregate.

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NOTE:If you're going to tag this, please note that you tagged it and explain why in the comments below.

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.

Subtropes
  • 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.

Examples

Literature
  • 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.

Music
  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • December 18, 2012
    WaxingName
    Tagged Needs Examples because it does.
  • December 18, 2012
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • The novelization of The Karate Kid (the original one) had Daniel complain to Mr. Miyagi before the tournament that he didn't know very many moves. Miyagi replied that he was better than the Cobra-Kais at the ones he did know.
  • December 19, 2012
    StarSword
    I might suggest renaming it to Quality Over Quantity since that's closer to the trope meaning.

    Film:
    • The good guys in Star Wars tend to subscribe to this philosophy: a highly trained and well-equipped clone army in the prequels, and better-armed and -defended fighters in the original trilogy and EU.
  • December 19, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^Actually, I specifically defined the trope to be about the inverse relationship of Quantity and Quality, not about how quality tends to win over quantity. I only touch on the fact that most morals of the story take the side of quality.
  • December 19, 2012
    FuriouslySleepingIdea
    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.
  • December 19, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ 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.
  • December 19, 2012
    WaxingName
    I think I'll just make a separate Quality Over Quantity YKTTW since the examples tend to that. This is a separate Trope In Aggregate.
  • December 19, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^Made the separate YKTTW.
  • December 19, 2012
    Tallens
    • Seen in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic when Sweet Apple Acres gets into a cider making contest against some slick salesponies and their Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000. The machine is shown to make good cider, but when the Apple family, along with the Mane Six, start pulling ahead the sales ponies turn up the power and turn off the quality control, which lets them churn out far more barrels of cider but it's the kind no one wants to drink.
  • December 19, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^Example added to Quality Over Quantity,
  • December 20, 2012
    Tallens
    Yeah, I saw that one right after I left this.
  • December 20, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Faction Calculus: "Powerhouses" tend towards quality while "Subversives" are more inclined towards quantity.
  • December 21, 2012
    KJMackley
    Seems related to an older YKTTW I proposed a while back called "Diminishing Returns," which I decided to bump.
  • December 21, 2012
    Schizocarp
    In one piece when the straw hats are battling 100000? enemies on the fishman island
  • December 21, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^^Will add as a Subtrope.
  • December 22, 2012
    Onitatsu
    ^^ Not only in One Piece but also in many other Manga and Anime (and also Video Game), where a handful of really powerful characters can take on huge amounts of opponents.

    • Kings Bounty The Legend: When you hire soldiers for your army, it ends up between lots of weak units vs a handful of really powerful units.
  • December 23, 2012
    wotnoplot
    What about this particular website? Does it apply here?
  • December 28, 2012
    lakingsif
    Quality Vs Quantity? Other word goes first, right? Because quality generally wins, right?
  • December 28, 2012
    O
    I'm horrible at the game I'm using as an example, but on the note of the Zerg Rush subtrope, and the King's Bounty example, in both Starcraft and Starcraft II, the Zerg prefers quantity, and the Protoss quality.
  • December 28, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^^I picked Quantity as the first word because a lot of shows tend to feature Quality as the underdog of the two. For the proposed subtrope, though, I put Quality as the first word because it's more accurate.

    But enough about that. Can I just launch this?
  • December 29, 2012
    Clarkarius
    • "Kingdom Hearts 2" has the battle of a thousand heartless, where Sora single handedly takes down well... a thousand heartless!

    • Kaim in the opening of "Lost Odyssey" hacks his way through an entire army without taking so much as a single hit, felling three enemies with singular strikes, with his sword being able tear through enemy armour as if it was made of gingerbread. True he is a [[Badass: 1,000 year old immortal with an a millennia of combat experience behind him]], but to fight against those odds, and to not take a single wound is a clear example of Quality completely crushing Quantity.
  • December 29, 2012
    TrollBrutal
    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.
  • December 29, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^^That's Conservation Of Ninjutsu.

    ^That's an example that doesn't fit anywhere, so I guess I can add it.
  • December 29, 2012
    justanid
  • December 31, 2012
    sgamer82
    • The Honor Harrington series has this initially between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the People's Republic of Haven. Haven is far larger, and possesses a far greater sized fleet than Manticore, but Manticore is on top in terms of technology and constantly works to keep that edge. Later, we have the Solarian League with even greater numbers but also an even greater disparity with Manticore & Haven.
  • December 31, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ That one's already listed in the YKTTW for Quality over Quantity
  • January 1, 2013
    sgamer82
    Yeha, the Solarians easily count for Quality Over Quantity, but Manticore and Haven stayed relatively even thoughout their war due to this trope. Haven even coins a phrase that (paraphrased) "Quantity is its own Quality."
  • January 8, 2013
    MetaFour
    The line "Quantity has a quality all its own," is generally attributed to Joseph Stalin.

    • 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.
  • January 14, 2013
    ZombieAladdin
    • Another relevant trope: More Dakka, 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.

    • Rain Of Arrows is the same applied to arrows rather than firearms, and both good guys and bad guys employ it about equally.

    • We Have Reserves is the idea that troops are expendable because there are so many available. This is never shown in a good light.

    • 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.
  • January 14, 2013
    Chabal2
    • 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.
    • Warhammer 40 K 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.
    • 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.
  • January 22, 2013
    jatay3
    Belisarius Series. With the exception of the Rajputs and the Kushans they are utterly incompetant at war but they have plenty of manpower.
  • January 22, 2013
    StarSword
    Further 40K example:

    • 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.
  • January 24, 2013
    StarSword
    For the trope list, I suggest you replace More Dakka with Spam Attack (supertrope to Beam Spam, Macross Missile Massacre, and More Dakka).
  • January 24, 2013
    StarSword
    Oh, just thought of another one.

    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.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=k8rkw7xi6g66krmlaklpx3zb&trope=QuantityVsQuality