Quantity vs. Quality
"Ah... the sound of dying. When it comes to death, quantity is so much more satisfying than quality."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 are 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.
SubtropesSides with Quantity
- Crippling Overspecialization: Try to do one thing very well, do everything else very poorly.
- 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.
- 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. Further subdivided into Beam Spam, Macross Missile Massacre, More Dakka, and Rain of Arrows.
- We Have Reserves: The idea that troops are expendable because there are so many available. This is never shown in a good light.
- Zerg Rush: Quantity versus quality of Mooks where Quantity wins.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Hero represents quality while Mooks represent quantity. Quality mostly wins.
- Master of None: Trying to do everything just results in sucking at everything.
- Power Equals Rarity: Better items are typically rarer.
- Quality Over Quantity: An Aesop that takes the side of quality.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: Quality over quantity of skills with weapons.
- Faction Calculus: "Powerhouses" tend towards quality while "Subversives" are more inclined towards quantity.
Examples (put examples that fit subtropes on their respective pages)
open/close all folders
- 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 superdreadnoughts 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 (in fact, Solarian commanders are willing to sacrifice entire task forces to make the Manties use up their irreplaceable high-tech missiles). Both sides have remained fairly even.
- Haven itself was also a version of this in the early books. They were much larger and had a bigger navy than Manticore but Manticore's technical edge kept them afloat. Things evened out in later books as Haven's tech base began to catch up and Manticore discovered less manpower-intensive ship designs letting them get more ships into combat. Throughout all that Haven maintained a mantra that quantity was a quality all its own.
- In the Belisarius Series the anti-malwa alliance has the quality for the most part and the the malwa have the quantity. This is modified somewhat because some of the Malwa vassals are proud warrior race guys.
- In the short story "Superiority" by Arthur C Clarke, this trope is fully analyzed. Two societies fight one another, one of which uses the newest, most up to date weaponry... and fails to conduct adequate testing before deployment. As a result, the new inventions have prohibitive logistical requirements or cause more damage to their own side than to the enemy. The other side sticks with tried-and-true technology that reliably works exactly the way that it should, and is much easier and faster to produce than the more advanced version... and they just keep plugging away on the production lines until they have numerical superiority. Guess which side wins.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: The Starks and the Lannisters, respectively. The Starks can only raise small armies, but being from the wild, dangerous Northlands, they tend to be composed of tough warriors. The Lannisters have access to lots of gold mines and this makes the family exceedingly rich and able to support large armies of cheap troops of questionable loyalty. In the TV series, the Starks win the majority of their battles except for the first one (which is more of a Pyrrhic Victory for the Lannisters; although they defeated the 2000-strong Stark force, they took heavy casualties and it was all a ploy which allowed the Starks to capture one of the family).
- 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.
- 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.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: this is one of the calculations pretty much every player must make when selecting an army to field on the tabletop. Each army has its own Warhammer Armies book (called a Codex in 40k) with an army list detailing the abilities of the various troop types, war machines, characters and monsters that make it up and assigning each a points value based on how powerful and effective it is in game terms. Most games are played between two armies of a fixed equal points value (say 2000 points, for instance), so if you want to pack your army with large numbers of troops you will have to take lower quality ones and skimp on the powerful stuff, and if you want lots of elite troops, heroes, wizards and powerful monsters then your army will be smaller overall. Different races or factions in the games tend to occupy different portions of the quality-quantity spectrum, with some specialising in higher quality troops, others specialising in cheap but numerous troops, some in the middle of the spectrum and a very few offering the choice of playing to either end.
- In addition to the Orcs/Orks, the settings have the Skaven and Tyranids respectively, whose main tactics are to send waves of easily-destroyed critters at defenders to blunt their attacks or get them to waste their ammo before sending in waves of stronger units.
- 40k uses this relationship between the Imperial Guard and 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.
Most human worlds in 40K also have planetary defense forces, who are the Redshirt Army to the Redshirt Army: collectively outnumbering the Guard, but generally so weak that their only purpose is to hold long enough for the Guard and/or Astartes to get there. In ascending order of competence and descending of numbers, a rough approximation for the three groups is National Guard → regular Army → SEAL Team Six.
- This is enforced for the PDF, as their best members are always selected for Imperial Guard service. The guard has become less of a Red Shirt Army over time, avoiding Conservationof Ninjitsu, although they still use quantity to their advantage (entire squadrons of tanks). The Space Marines have sub-divisions that focus on quantity more (like the tens of thousands of Black Templars, or the Space Wolves, who refused to spin off successor chapters and remain at the strength of the original Space Marine Legions), and others that are even smaller and more elite than normal, such the 1000 strong all-psyker Grey Knights.
- In Steve Jackson's OGRE one player has a bunch of conventional tanks, infantry, and artillery. The other player has the Ogre.
- 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.
- In 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' basic skill raises two weak skeletons from a corpse, quickly snowballing into a tide of skeletons. Dark Rangers can Animate Dead, too, but create a single, stronger skeleton instead. Death Knights however truly take the cake with their Short-lived yet invincible minions that are just as strong as they were when they were alive.