I have a dump directory that is too easily filled up (with cores and dumps) if a programming error makes our system misbehave catastrophically.

Here’s a nice trick to create a small filesystem with fixed capacity so that the owning filesystem (in my case /var) can’t be filled up:

dd if=/dev/zero of=dump.loopback bs=1M count=10
mke2fs ./dump.loopback
mount -o loop dump.loopback ./dump
chmod 777 ./dump