Importantly, you can chain signs together; a smoke alarm beeping indexes smoke, which indexes fire, which indexes danger. They can also mean multiple things; a single gold coin underneath a dead person’s tongue might symbolise a ritual passage to death, but the presence of it also indexes somebody that cared enough to put it there being alive after the death of the person. And, they can mean different things to different people; beggars missing a finger might index (incorrectly) a disproportionately high rate of frostbite to the naïve Dwarven cleric, but the rogue will recognise The magic of the unicorn by deborah lerme goodman shirt symbolising the beggars being thieves, indexing the area as a dangerous place to leave your purse out on display. Later in the campaign, when they discover a cult that marks its members by removing a finger, it may take on a chilling potential third meaning.Icons are pretty straightforward, so I won’t bother to talk about them too much. Simply put, they are direct representations. Paintings of kings. Mug o’ ale burnt into a sign is probably an indication that the building it’s attached to is a pub- one that’s not too upmarket, at that. A drawing of a dog on a gate probably indicates that there’s a dog past it.
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Because symbols are culturally learned, you have a limited number of options The magic of the unicorn by deborah lerme goodman shirt using them in new ways- you can either give your players a new culture to play with either in-game or out, developing the “culture” (i.e. taking a long swig of water precipitating a boss fight, “judging from the last three we’ve encountered, it looks like the guys that are missing an ear are usually actually pretty friendly”), or by messing with the culture that they already know. This is where I can only suggest taking a (careful) exploration into TVTropes, which has fantastic articles on ways that tropes can be inverted- tropes are, by definition, cultural.Personally, I would think about how I could weave cultural meanings into other signs, that are already pulling weight as indexes or icons- that heraldry of the falcon, tearing the head off a snake? It might literally represent that, yes, but it might also give a clue to what they do to those that betray them (if we’re going with traditional values of snake = deceit). That light puzzle might also explain why the ancient race that built the mechanoids have big, but portable lamps everywhere.