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In Traveller-5, worldgen step E includes creating the world's cultural extension (Cx), the last digit of which is "symbols." The rule book explains only that:

Symbols used by the culture may range from the concrete (idol; totems; statuary) to the abstract (symbolized belief systems; group affiliations).

Given that the value is computed as Tech Level + Flux with a minimum of 1, one can easily infer that more primitive cultures have a lower value while more advanced cultures have a higher value. One also might infer from the brief description that the axis it measures has more "concrete" symbols at the lower range and more "abstract" symbols at the higher end.

How is this value applied to describing the world's culture?

[Responses relevant to other editions of Traveller besides 5 are useful.]

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Per this thread the meaning of specific levels of symbols (and the other elements of the cultural extension) hasn't been given definitive meaning by Marc Miller.

However the developer of the Traveller Map has come up with this table. Which is consistent with how it is generated (d6-d6) + Tech Level. The higher the tech level is, the more abstract and complex a cultural symbols will be.

The code files also contains other interpretations of the Cultural Extension.

0: 'Extremely concrete',
1: 'Extremely concrete',
2: 'Very concrete',
3: 'Very concrete',
4: 'Concrete',
5: 'Concrete',
6: 'Somewhat concrete',
7: 'Somewhat concrete',
8: 'Somewhat abstract',
9: 'Somewhat abstract',
A: 'Abstract',
B: 'Abstract',
C: 'Very abstract',
D: 'Very abstract',
E: 'Extremely abstract',
F: 'Extremely abstract',
G: 'Extremely abstract',
H: 'Incomprehensibly abstract',
J: 'Incomprehensibly abstract',
K: 'Incomprehensibly abstract',
L: 'Incomprehensibly abstract',
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    \$\begingroup\$ So from Sun and Dog to Post-impressionism and String Theory? And no one but Miller knows what these actually do, and he's not telling? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ More likely hasn't gotten around to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for finding that table, @RSConley. As I say in the original question, that scale is implied by the generation method and brief description just as you have noted. Where I imagine this going is a table of options at each level, or a set of scales to be jumped over to such that it's not a one-dimensional value. I agree it seems likely that this is meaningful to Mr. Miller in a way that he could spontaneously describe any number of beliefs/customs/rituals appropriate to the level as needed in play. Unfortunately, I need more guidance to accomplish even less than that in play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tuorg
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 0:35

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