Game: B-
From 37 reviews

Dust Devils

First Edition


Publisher Description

Dust Devils is a role-playing game set in the dust-ridden Old West. Players portray gunslingers, gamblers, cowboys, and outlaws who must not only survive in a rugged land, but conquer their inner Devil - those dark secrets that keep folks from being honest and decent.

Dust devils asks, "Can a no good sunnuvabitch make right with his ugly, evil past and be a man the God-fearin' people of the West respect and admire? Or, will the Devil get the best of him, and everyone see that he's a cheat, a liar or a no-good killer."

Dust Devils is a game in tradition of gritty Western films like The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven.

To play this game you'll need a deck of playing cards and a small set of poker chips.

Shoot or give up the gun. Which is it gonna be?


A Rules-Light Western RPG With Collaborative and PvP Elements [ edit ]

Just to clear one thing up first, while "Dust Devils" is a game about devils, it's not the fantasy kind.  If you want a Western game with actual devils, you should check out Deadlands instead.

Just as in many Western stories, Dust Devils is very much about characters who wrestle with their metaphorical devils.  This is not the RPG for a group that want's to play as a sheriff and his shining deputies, coming to rescue a  town from bandits, natives, or whatever else.  Instead, this is a game for Western movies like Unforgiven, where the characters struggle against their dark side to try and find redemption.

Dust Devils accomplishes this by using a rules light system where all conflict is resolved by building poker hands.  A character's "devil" is a key part of that process: if they embrace their devil they get extra cards, but if they try to fight against it they instead lose cards (although in exchange they earn a poker chip instead, which can redeemed for future extra cards).

The poker mechanic isn't Dust Devils' only departure from traditional RPGs.  While the game does have a "dealer" (GM), who sets up events, when it comes time to actually narrate how conflicts are resolved, whoever has the highest hand at the table, PC or GM, becomes the narrator of the outcome (although they are constrained by the results of the other hands).

At the same time, while the game can be collaborative when it comes to telling the story, the actual story itself can often involve conflicts between characters, and so "PvP" (player vs. player) combat is absolutely supported by Dust Devils, giving it another feature that sets it apart from more traditional RPGs.

Dust Devils, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

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The Perfect Western For Examining Deep Western Themes With Little "Crunch" [ edit ]

Dust Devils is not a complex system: the entire core of the game's rules (not counting the non-Western variants presented at the end) fits into less than forty pages, and the actual meat of the game fits into far less space than that.  If you are looking for a game with lots of mechanics to actually support your Western RPG, Dust Devils is not the game for you (GURPS might be a better fit).

But for many Dust Devils will be the perfect RPG.  If you're looking to explore the stories of devil-haunted protagonists in the Wild West, with a more collaborative style than traditional RPGS, there simply isn't a better option.  Likewise, if mechanically you're looking for a rules-light Western RPG ... but one that utilizes poker hands/chips, is strongly impacted by a character's demons, and seamlessly allows for PvP conflicts ... there isn't another game out there with such a unique (and arguably perfect) combination of features.

Of course, different doesn't always mean good, but since Dust Devils won the 2002 Indie RPG Game of the Year Award (and also won or placed in other categories) and has a 4.5 star rating (with 13 reviews) on Drive Thru RPG, you can be confident that Dust Devils isn't just different for the sake of being different, but rather because it's unique elements creates a really fun to play Western RPG.