Just thinking out loud. One of the reasons people love combat in RPG is the sense of tension during an ongoing fight. Each time you roll, you don’t know whether you’ll hit or not; you don’t know how much damage you’ll make, or how much damage you’ll take. Etc, etc. Part of the fun too is that there seem to be so many tactical options on what you can do.
It seems that a few game systems attempt to do something similar with social conflict. Second hand descriptions of Burning Wheel’s Duel of Wits come to mind, as well as as descriptions of how the Monkey (The-Storytelling-Game-of-the-Journey-to-the-West) handles “soft” conflicts via three strikes (much less tactical than combat, though).
I’ve been wondering if there might there be a way to represent the struggle of the internal conflict in a like manner, somehow staging it moment by moment as you would in combat.
I’ve considered converting internal neuroses or flaws into metaphorical monsters with stats, including hit points? If they defeat you, you succumb to your flaw. If you defeat them, you don’t succumb to them at least at that juncture (that also leads me to the other question of when can a character completely overcome them forever, but I haven’t thought that through either).
To me, a metaphorical monster sounds interesting on paper, but I have a feeling it might make the struggle feel like less like an internal struggle, even if you know it’s just a metaphor. Maybe each time your PC gets ‘hit’, something happens outside to represent that. If your PC has a heroin addiction, and is being tempted by a friend, maybe getting ‘hit’ means that he starts counting how much money he has on, getting hit again means he starts walking with his friend towards the dope dealer’s place. Hitting the monster, maybe means that he stops and starts rationalizing why maybe he shouldn’t, etc. When you defeat the monster, it means you’ve overcome it (if only for the time being); when it defeats you, it means you succumb to your flaw or problem this time.
Might there be other/better ways of representing internal conflicts so as to create tension the way that combat does?