Devil Dust. Probably my favorite monster in the whole ICRPG canon. Something about them has stuck with me ever since they were released in ICRPG MAGIC. Nestled quietly between Demons and Feeders, this sentient gas cloud wafts silently toward nothing but absolute destruction.
Here’s how Devil Dusts are described in the book:
Devil Dust is a form of sentient gas or microparticles that move and behave as a cloud, but with intelligent motion regardless of wind. Wherever gas or air can go, it can go. It cannot be destroyed, but dissipates in time. An immense cloud of this substance can destroy an entire city.ICRPG MAGIC, Runehammer Games
Now that’s some subtle horror right there. If you then look at its actions, you’ll find in MAGIC it has DISINTEGRATE and DEVOUR, but in MASTER EDITION it has DEVOUR and KEEPS GROWING.
- DISINTEGRATE (MAGIC): Roll a D6 and on a 4-5-6, disintegrate a number of living creatures or objects. Creatures need to make a CON save to drop to 0 HP. If they fail, they are immediately vaporized. Utterly dead.
- DEVOUR (MAGIC): Roll a D6 and on a 4-5-6, consume a number of creatures. The Dust grows to a larger category and all those devoured drops to 0HP with a DYING timer of 1. No saves.
- DEVOUR (ME): Roll a D6 and on a 4-5-6 consume a number of creatures related to their volume and then grow to a larger category. No saves.
- KEEP GROWING (ME): It ranges from Volume 3, which is the size of a cart, to Volume 20, which is the size of a city.
I hope you can see how brutally delicious these Devil Dusts are. With no hearts, no rolls, and no actions other than destroying anything it touches, these things are scary! But in practice, it took me a while before I figured out how I like to run these terrors at the table.
How I Run Devil Dusts
As a baseline, I enjoy the MAGIC version better because I like the 50/50 odds between utter annihilation and just dropping to the edge of death. But I felt like I needed to get my players more involved to really drive home the dread, so this is what I do.
First, whenever a Devil Dust drops into the scene. I tell my players what they are. I don’t want to pull a “gotcha” and have them unknowingly walk into one and die. I’m looking for dread, not a surprise death.
Then when it’s the Devil Dust’s turn, I’ll have them move toward the nearest source of food, unless under some other form of direction. Could be a player. Could be an NPC. Whoever it is, either I or they will roll a D6. 1-2-3 means DISINTEGRATE. 4-5-6 means DEVOUR.
If they roll DISINTEGRATE, they then need to make a CON save or get annihilated. If they roll DEVOUR, they drop to 0 HP and the Devil Dust gets bigger. Once it’s bigger, it will move next turn and try to consume two targets. Every time it DEVOURS it increases in volume and will be able to affect more targets each round as it fills the space.
But it’s the sequence of just a few crucial rolls that I love about the Devil Dust. The anticipation of what is essentially a coin flip is absolutely palatable. Will a player face disintegration or will the Devil Dust grow larger? Which is better? Is a chance of survival worth a growing threat? If a player is unfortunate enough to face disintegration, everyone clenches their Hero Coins as hopeful bystanders. This could be the end of a teammate and friend.
I love those moments!
Not because I want to see a player get killed from a simple roll but because the weight of the dice is real. Players’ ingenuity and resourcefulness shine. And the cheers are loud when the dice roll well and sadness can be shared when dice declare otherwise.
But that’s just me. How would you run Devil Dusts in your game? Have you ever thought about including them in a session or faced one yourself? Let me know in the comments, and if you want to see a game where players faced these clouds of death, check out the Caves of Crask below: