Design and Commentary: Ks. Jim Ogle
Commentary: David Oakes, Phil Dack, Daijo Tibdixious,
.pdf of this article.
When originally published, the Torg role-playing game
included charts for the four axioms- Magic, Social, Spirit, and
Tech. These charts covered the general path of advancement for
the axioms, but were incomplete. This is a revised and completed
“The Social axiom governs what sort of interactions are
possible between living beings; the complexity of their social
organizations and what ideas they may put into practice. It determines
the ease with which information may be collected and disseminated
and the equity and efficiency of social structures.”
(The Revised and Expanded Torg Rulebook,
0- No social interaction between beings is possible;
beings who reproduce by fission or similar methods live lives of
complete solitude in the presence of all other beings. Living beings
may feed on vegetables, but not on other living beings.
1- The concept of a living “other” becomes
possible. Beings may communicate on a temporary, makeshift basis;
no long term understanding is possible. No permanent relationships
or social units are possible.
Sexual reproduction first becomes possible. Carnivorous behavior,
including hunting or stalking, becomes possible. Combat and murder
2- Partnerships are possible on a long term basis.
Such partnerships share an idiosyncratic form of communication
(a “language”) that is incomprehensible to others.
3- The only social unit is the nuclear family
(parents and offspring only); rudimentary ceremonies for death
of a family member develop. Language is possible, but not permanent
4- The extended family is possible. Verbal traditions
are strong, ceremonial knowledge is passed down from generation
to generation. Ceremonies for all important stages of life are
The concept of personal property is possible. Painting and other
forms of ornamentation and decoration are developed.
5- The tribe (multi-family groups) is possible,
resources can be shared. Political organization is possible, but
of very limited scope.
Pictographic writing such as hieroglyphics can be developed.
Dramatic theater is possible, distinct from religious ceremonies
and stories. Poetry is developed.
6- Villages and cooperative agricultural efforts
are possible. Rulership by a “king” is possible but the
range of his authority is limited. Social organization developed
sufficiently to allow the existence of professional tradesmen.
Semi-professional military and militia formed for common defense
The concept of land ownership is possible. Unfortunately, so is
the concept of owning other intelligent beings. A combination sound/pictographic
alphabet may be developed. Epic poetry and sporting events are
7- The city-state, a network of villages and
smaller cities ruled from one central city, usually with a monarch
of some kind, can exist. Feudalism possible. Standing armies for
conquest as well as defense may be raised.
Taxes are invented, as are arithmetic counting and administrative
procedures for collecting taxes.
8- Collection of information is sufficiently
centralized for the beginning of scholarship and science; libraries
and institutions of learning may appear. Abstract or phonetic alphabets
possible. Such institutions may be leveraged to increase the speed
with which any axiom develops.
Money is invented. Laws are codified. Early forms of democracy
are possible, but voting privileges are usually limited to a specific
social group, membership in said group being defined based on wealth,
heredity, education, lot, gender or other factors (including a
combination of these factors).
9- Social organization sufficiently robust as
to assimilate conquered cultures rather than simply rule them.
Societies may trade “cultural ideas” as well as hard
goods. Credit and money lending established. Property is rented.
Postal and news services are possible.
Governments and religions may institute large bureaucracies,
allowing them to influence far greater numbers of people over a
larger amount of territory than before.
10- Financial concepts develop rapidly. The idea
of a company or royal monopoly, a non-family owned venture sponsored
by several partners, is possible. Stock, commodities and financial
exchanges possible. The concept of collateral is invented. Insurance
policies are possible.
11- The nation-state is possible; while a city
or province may rule a nation, the nation as a whole has some say
and representation in forming policy. A federal system of government
12- Social structure developed enough to allow
implementation of economic principles based on the concept of man
as an “economic being.” Capitalism, socialism and communism
13- Knowledge about how others think and behave
is sufficient to allow for diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders; hypnotism and psychology skills
Economic systems involving billions of consumers are possible.
14- Pluralism, the balancing of many factions
within a government and society, is possible. More inhabitants
of a nation are enfranchised. Vast bureaucracies may be spawned
to handle the increased social complexity.
15- Pluralism on a transnational scale is possible,
balancing the needs and wants of nations against each other. The
beginnings of a “global society” may take shape.
The study of social concepts becomes more sophisticated, in particular
how they propagate. The concept of a meme (a cognitive or behavioral
pattern that can be transmitted from one individual to another)
becomes possible. The science of memetics (the study of memes and
how they propagate) develops.
16- Supranational organizations with authority
over nations possible, a “federal government” for nations.
Such organizations may include any number of nations.
Economic systems encompassing tens of billions of individuals
Memetic science develops sophisticated techniques to influence
public opinion (making marketing a science rather than an art).
The behavior of large numbers of individuals can be influenced
with greater success rate and greater precision. Political, commercial,
or religious messages can be distributed easily and effectively.
17- Massive scale economies (with hundreds of
billions of consumers) economies are possible, but subject to normal
limitations, i.e. shortages, crash and boom cycles, and the like.
A comprehensive theory of linguistics is possible which allows
translating to become vastly easier. Trained individuals can translate
between any language (even those previously unknown to them) with
a few weeks of work. Dead or lost languages can be analyzed and
Organizational techniques improve, including flexible and quick
decision making processes. Bureaucracies can become less “bureaucratic”,
implementing broad policy while maintaining situational flexibility.
18- Social sciences can predict the future behavior
of masses of individuals with great precision. This ability is
limited by the amount of information that can be ascertained about
the population. Such predictions are usually reliable in the short
term (within a few days), however long term predictions are much
Advanced psychological techniques, based on the study of how the
brain stores and processes information, become available. Procedures
for detecting and diagnosing mental illnesses increase in utility
and accuracy. Misdiagnosis are rare. Even incipient mental illness
can be diagnosed (thus making the prediction of future occurrences
19- Societal behavioral predictions increase
in reliability. The behavior of a population over a few months
or a year can be reliably predicted.
Sociological techniques improve; the diagnosis and treatment (or
inducement) of cultural maladies is now possible by altering (or
designing) memes. Such interventions require the use of social
engineering (mass propaganda) techniques.
Knowledge of personal interactions improve; all social skills
become more effective.
Psychological techniques improve greatly, surpassing psychoactive
drugs in efficiency. Modifications to an individual’s personality
can be accomplished through purely social techniques; such modifications
cannot change an individual’s basic personality, but can
mitigate or eliminate neuroses and other mental conditions.
It now becomes possible for psychologists to reliably predict
individual behavior. Such predictions are accurate for a few weeks,
but decrease in reliability after that.
20- Economic systems can encompass and predict
levels of production, distribution and sales for tens of billions
of consumers. Such prediction allows the prevention of boom or
bust cycles. Basic human needs (food, shelter, strictly necessary
medical care) can be distributed for all consumers in the system
(assuming sufficient supplies are available).
Economic systems are possible which can include effectively unlimited
numbers of consumers; these economies are still inefficient when
compared to smaller scale (tens or hundreds of billions of consumers)
Linguistics improve enough to allow completely alien languages
to be analyzed and understood.
Therapeutic techniques can greatly modify a personality, causing
or curing even severe mental pathologies. Treatment of nearly all
forms of mental illness is advanced enough that the vast majority
are diagnosed and cured in early childhood.
“Mind sculpting” (temporary personality modification)
is now available as an art form. This allows individuals to have
their personality modified for recreational use.
21- Memetic engineering, designing cultures and
societies from whole cloth, develops. Such artificial social structures
can prove more efficient than “organic” cultures, balancing
a large variety of mores, factions, and values. When properly designed,
these societies are free from many of the inherent defects of hereditary
Psychological science can now predict individual behavior with
a great deal of certainty. Such predictions can span months of
22- Economic systems can now encompass hundreds
of billions of consumers, accurately predicting trends, production,
distribution, and sales. Boom and bust cycles for such economies
are now eliminated; basic human needs for all consumers can be
supplied (assuming sufficient supplies exist).
Metalinguistics becomes possible. This discipline combines the
knowledge of a wide variety of languages to allow the quick and
easy translation between them. These techniques are available to
all who speak the meta-language. Newly encountered languages can
be interpreted within a few minutes of encountering them. Only
a small sample of the original language need be present for translation
to be possible.
“Waking hypnosis” is possible, including compelling
individual behavior. Such techniques require no other tools than
23- Economic advances enable the elimination
of cyclical growth cycles for unlimited scale economies; basic
needs can be supplied universally (if sufficient supplies are available).
Social techniques are developed which can detect lies with nearly
100% accuracy. Individual delusions or mistaken beliefs are not
detected (as the subject believes them to be true).
It is now possible to create and implant a wholly artificial personalities
in an individual, permanently erasing all traces of their original
24- Group propaganda techniques reach their apex.
Artificial memes can effectively “reprogram” an individual’s
personality, memories, or perceptions. These memes replicate and
disseminate through social interaction (a true social disease).
Mental inoculation against such memes are possible, including
the creation of “counter-memes”. Memetic engineering
allows the control of a large populace with a great deal of certainty.
When used in warfare, it can be a subtle and dangerous weapon.
Such memes require this axiom to create, but can be spread through
normal social interaction (possible at a Social of 3 or greater).
This makes memetic warfare particularly devastating against civilizations
with a lower Social axiom, as they cannot inoculate themselves
against the effects of the memes.
The possible psychological effects of memes vary greatly, including
invoking insanities, reprogramming prejudices, and erasing or implanting
memories. Of course, the reverse is also possible. At this axiom
level, memetic engineering must be relatively specific, with each
meme invoking only one effect.
The behavior of whole populations can be predicted for years in
25- Memetic engineering increases in utility,
with one meme being capable of a broad range of effects. Single-purpose
memes are more efficient (and easier to design) however.
A universal language can be developed which includes all conceivable
concepts. These concepts can be expressed with exceeding exactness.
Perfect control of language can be achieved. All communication
using this language is specific- senders can compose messages which
exactly encapsulate their desired message. This language cannot
be used to imply false statements; inaccurate parsing (including
misunderstanding or misstatements) is impossible (but deliberate
lying is still possible).
26- Ratiocination methods develop which allow
individuals to function as perfectly rational observers, without
personal biases clouding their perceptions. Such methods require
extensive training to be utilized. Individuals can isolate and
understand perceptual information without mental filters, either
emotional or informational. Ego, pride, prejudice, and biases can
Standard rights of all individuals and rights of the group may
be accepted. A high degree of individual responsibility and the
responsibility of the group is fostered. Methods for conflict resolution
are established which are efficient and nondestructive.
Social structures are advanced enough to incorporate factions
and societies of a completely alien nature.
27- Ratiocination methods become more effective
for less effort. Mental and emotional perceptual filters may be
overcome with little or no training.
A “government for all” which tolerates and enhances
any cultural or psychological outlook is possible, allowing a high
degree of equity and justice. Decision making processes are able
to reach solutions that please everyone.
Social structures become highly flexible. Decision making functions
are decentralized. Social organizations become a matter of ad hoc
interaction between citizens. Such organizations spontaneously
form to deal with a given situation or challenge and last as long
as necessary. Leadership is delegated on a temporary basis, with
the most capable individual becoming the ad hoc leader.
These reflexive groups prove more efficient than older bureaucracies
and organizations. All social institutions (including the military,
government, and courts) are reorganized around these principles.
28- Anti-social behavior (“evil”) is
identified and contained. Social memes develop which are highly
resistant to evil, allowing society members moral freedom not possible
when evil is a philosophy given equal, or superior, value to good.
29- Understanding of the nature of good and evil
is innate in all people. Evil actions are contradictory and instinctively
avoided by nearly everyone.
30- A more perfect society than humanity can
Of the four axioms, Social is the most changed. The axiom has
been expanded between 0 and 2 (what was 2 is now 3). This allows
a more gradual growth form “no interaction” to “families.”
The axiom scale has been compressed from 2-22 (now 3-16). A federal
government for nations, for example, is now Axiom 16. This gave
me plenty of room to experiment with galactic social structures,
massive scale economies, and future social forms.
This means that each cosm has a different Social axiom rating,
using these new axiom charts. Under the old system, Core Earth’s
Social was 21, now it is 15. This represents the exact same level
of social development, measured on a new benchmark.
One thing I did not include in this axiom write-up was psionics.
In this author’s opinion, psionics is not a function of the
Social axiom. Many common psionics-heavy genres have a low Social
axiom, and telepathic abilities are no more Socially oriented than
certain divination magic spells. At some point in the
future, I will finish my design of a new psionics system, including
a Psychic axiom.
Sources and Inspiration
shape of future societies is well-trod ground in
the science fiction genre. Various authors have all
predicted how future societies will develop, but
none in as organized a fashion as I have tried to
Troopers, by Robert Heinlein- Though decried
as a paean to fascism, the concept of a rigorous
and scientific method of analyzing and solving
moral and ethical dilemmas was useful.
Meier’s Alpha Centauri- This game
constructed a path for future societies, including
Social and Technological advances. I borrowed the
term “ethical calculus” (as a name for
the science of morals) from this game. Though I did
not adopt any of their future society models, SMAC
is an excellent example of game design that is similar
in concept and execution to the Torg axioms.
The “Foundation” series,
by Isaac Asimov- Obviously, the concept of psychohistory
began here. Although I did not follow Asimov’s
formulations exactly, this concept was helpful in
unifying the economic and scientific advances of
Crash, by Neal Stephenson- Stephenson’s
Babel virus was the original inspiration for my
inclusion of memes. Although his theories of language
and “hacking” minds were not followed,
his was a unique vision that inspired my original
memetic engineering designs.
Steel Rat” series, by Harry Harrison-
Harrison developed a future society in which nearly
all mental diseases were caught and cured in infancy.
That proved too good a concept not to “borrow.” In
addition, individuals could be completely cured
of psychological defects, and could have their
personalities reprogrammed. That, too, went into
my mental bin for use in this axiom.
far as I am aware, the concept of an arbitrarily
organized society is entirely mine, as is the terms
and concepts of mindsculpting and metalinguistics.
The current organization of the high Social ranges
(16+) is entirely the work of this author- so you
can feel free to blame him if it offends your particular
religion, political beliefs, or philosophical predilections.
The high Social axiom (16+) was the most interesting part. Building
on what was previously there, I included vast and powerful advances
in learning, psychology, propaganda, “psycho-history”,
and the scientific concept of memes.
At higher Social axioms, psychology becomes an exact science,
more or less. Social interaction becomes a more effective means
of detecting and curing psychological disorders than medicines
or surgery. At even higher levels, personalities can be modified
through social interaction. Mindsculpting, cosmetic surgery for
your personality, becomes a popular art form.
These advances in psychology allow many effects. Happiness can
be exactly described and measured. Sources of unhappiness can be
diagnosed and cures implemented. The intimate knowledge of the
human mind allows, at a high enough level, the precise and provable
definition of Good and Evil.
Psychological advances lead to understanding of the links between
biology and psychology. How the brain operates at a mental and
physical level is explored and integrated. Highly effective methods
of learning become possible.
Advances in propaganda and psychology lead to the development
of the science of memes. A meme is a mental concept, such as “the
divine right of kings” or “freedom of speech.” Memes
propagate between human minds in a manner similar to peer-to-peer
file-sharing programs or computer viruses.
Research into memes allows scientists to develop memetic engineering— the
science of creating and controlling memes. Memes can be analyzed,
designed, and propagated efficiently. This leads to whole new avenues
of advertising and propaganda. Dictatorships can more effectively
propagandize the masses with memetic techniques. Memetic warfare,
the wholesale destruction of a society through memetic techniques,
Understanding of the human mind leads to the ability to predict
human economic and social activities. Economies can be organized
more efficiently, as economics becomes a predictive science. The
concept of a future history becomes possible, although predictive
abilities function mainly for large populations, not individuals.
Interpersonal interactions improve with a rising Social axiom.
Characters from high Social societies are better able to taunt,
charm, and intimidate than their peers from lower Social cosms.
Societies grow through a process of cultural accretion, analogous
to how sandstone forms. A high enough Social axiom allows cultural
engineers to control the growth and development of a society (through
sophisticated memetic engineering techniques). Wholly new cultures
can be devised, which exceed the capabilities of organic cultures.
The study of mental and physical structures of the mind leads
to the science of metalinguistics. All languages are described
in terms of specific instances of a larger linguistic theory. This
allows the development of rapid translation of new languages, as
well as the eventual development of a perfectly efficient language.
At the apex of the axiom, societies have passed beyond the concepts
of permanent organizations. Instead, social organizations become
arbitrarily complex. They form in response to a stimulus and disband
quickly. Since pride and ego have been set aside, and people know
the psychology and capabilities of each other, everyone can recognize
the best possible leader(s) and team member(s) and act accordingly.
At a mid-to high Social axiom, cultural engineers design institutions.
In high Social societies, the institutions organically arise from
the interaction of living beings. This form of society has been
described as anarcho-dictatorialism.
This type of society does not eliminate centralized decision making
processes. This society could become totally centralized, when
it is necessary, and only then. When it is not necessary, authority
devolves to other individuals. In this society, authority and power
is a perfectly liquid asset- it flows to where it is needed, when
it is needed.
In theory, this society could be completely decentralized, with
no leaders, no structure, and no organizations. In practice, the
everyday life ensures that there are many small crises (floods,
families, getting a car out of a ditch) that will provoke the spontaneous
formation of a team.
Because the axiom chart has been altered, conversion notes are
necessary. The following charts allows gamemasters to convert Social
axiom ratings from the old axiom to the new axiom. It lists two
values, a literal conversion, which maintains the old Social rating
as much as possible, and a “suggested” rating, which
modifies the Social axiom of the cosm to take certain factors into
In many cases, the Social ratings listed in the official Torg material
were way off from what the given cosm should have. I have taken
these errors into account, when deciding on the suggested axiom
For instance, under the recommended conversion, the Social of
the Cyberpapacy is left untouched, while the suggested Cyberpapal
Social is much lower, but is more in line with what the cosm should
Also remember that, even if the relative Social advancement is
unchanged, lower numbers are to be expected in most cases, such
as with Aysle and the Living Land. These cosms have the exact same
Social development as in Torg, but the scale has changed.
An 18 on the old chart is only a 13 on the new chart.
1The Law of Ferocity
restricts social interactions. War is supported with a full 14,
economic activity reduced to an 8, and other social interactions
function at a 9.
world view is better reflected with an 11. Neither the birth of
psychology nor Adam Smith’s economic theories are appropriate
for the reality.
3The Cyberpapacy does
not live up to its full Social rating, it is more medieval than
Aysle. A 10 is far more appropriate to the cosm than a 13.
4Even though the axiom
benchmark is the same, this Social axiom gives a Social of 22 new
abilities with regards to propaganda and advertising. Kanawa now
has even more power than before.
5Orrorsh has a Victorian
social order. A 13 is more appropriate than a 14. A 14 is turn
of the 20th century, from 1900 to 1945. A 13 better represents
6The Space Gods Social
is a complete shot in the dark. The new Social chart is so different,
in the upper limits, as to preclude any definitive answer. Given
the effects of 24, however, it seems the best rating for that reality.
Gamemasters should be prepared, however, because the new abilities
of the Space Gods, with respect to shaping culture and predicting
behavior, will make them very powerful indeed, even without gravitic
7The “official” Social
axiom of Tz’Ravok is ludicrous. It correlates with the global
age of imperialism and the birth of psychology. Tz’Ravok
is a tribal culture, slightly more advanced than the Living Land.
The city-states of the Land Below are more civilized than the followers
of Ravok. Either 6 or 7 is appropriate, although I prefer a 6.
Updated: Nov. 20, 2010
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by Jasyn Jones.