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David A. Trampier, 1954-2014
March 28, 2014 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Legendary old school tabletop RPG artist David Trampier (mentioned previously a few times on the blue) created some of the most striking iconic art which helped define the look of 1st edition Advanced D&D. He grew disillusioned with the business in the late eighties and cut off all contact with his former employers (ceasing cashing royalty checks), disappearing with such finality that Dragon Magazine assumed he was dead. By chance, some fifteen years later he appeared in a local news story in Carbondale, Illinois where he was working as a taxi driver. He politely but firmly rejected all invitations to step back into his previous career. This week he passed away at the age of 59.

Trampier was possibly best known for Wormy, his long-running cartoon in Dragon that stopped mid-story in 1988 when Trampier quit. He was an influence on many later cartoonists in the field, including John Kovalic. Tragically, it seemed Trampier was about to step back into the gaming world with an appearance at the Egypt Wars con this summer and new Wormy.
posted by ricochet biscuit (64 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Boy, some of those images bring me back.
posted by cribcage at 11:02 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Come on, people, this is a mystery! We're supposed to be good at this! One of our own falls down a dungeon precipice, and we sit on the sidelines like a flock of shy hens, gossiping.

;_;

Such disappearing acts are often a sign of depression/anxiety issues. I hope that his quiet years were happy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:04 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


..

(one for Wormy)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:05 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by edheil at 11:09 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:11 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Those sketches are etched into the DEEP recesses of my brain. I used to stare at them for days studying every pen stroke and cross hatch!

Also: Striking - I see what you did there.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:14 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I thought someone might catch. An extra 100 XP for you!

Actually I see that in my remarks above, I overlooked his design work and illustration of Titan, an unjustly obscure Avalon Hill game from the old days.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:18 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I suspect his potential comeback probably had to do with medical bills.
posted by srboisvert at 11:18 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


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I always loved the Troll-futzing-with-the-adventurer's-cord image.
posted by echocollate at 11:21 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


It's a very interesting art style. Some of it is indeed striking, some sort of clumsy. But I really like the pic of the rakshasa.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:21 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


If I am ever half as cool as his rakshasa, I will consider my life a giant success.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:22 AM on March 28 [9 favorites]


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posted by graymouser at 11:23 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I always got the impression that artwork was drawn by a fan, not a professional artist, like your talented friend in Middle School doodling in math class. Fits perfectly the do it yourself ethos of D&D and live role playing. Approachable. The really nice professional art of later stuff is awesome but sometimes less is more.
posted by stbalbach at 11:23 AM on March 28 [5 favorites]


Like 10th Reg. Foot, those images just started memories pouring out of me. And he did the original Titan layout and design, too?

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posted by ursus_comiter at 11:29 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Wow, the guy in the "define" link has the world's longest arm.

Also, say what you will about the American healthcare system (and also civil courts), but at least they motivate a lot of artistic comebacks.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:33 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


> Fits perfectly the do it yourself ethos of D&D and live role playing. Approachable. The really nice professional art of later stuff is awesome but sometimes less is more.

Yeah, this exactly. The work of tramp and his peers really set the tone and flavor of the first edition rulebooks. Being a little crooked at the seams and lacking polish seemed to help emphasize the necessity of bringing your own imagination to the game. They helped stimulate more study-hall-drafted dungeon adventures than Photoshop-polished realism could have.
posted by ardgedee at 11:34 AM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I feel like I've seen the first image with the big demon sculpture a hundred times--I never played D&D but I think one of my old babysitters' teenaged kids did possibly. I always thought it was really cool.
posted by Hoopo at 11:34 AM on March 28


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posted by Smart Dalek at 11:37 AM on March 28


And he did the original Titan layout and design, too?

Yes. The very board oozes Trampness. I may mark his passing with a tattoo -- there are several dozen different legion markers, almost any of which would make a fine design.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:37 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


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(He also did King of the Tabletop/ Kings and … Things as well.)
posted by gentilknight at 11:46 AM on March 28


I always loved me my black legion markers, especially the spiked d6.

richochet biscuit, I may just have to clone your tattoo idea. That and pull out my Titan box and put a game together.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:49 AM on March 28


Great post. Tonight I'm going to crack open my 1st edition AD&D books in his honor.
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:52 AM on March 28


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Wormy was a lot of "what if monsters were doofy grognards like us", but occasionally there'd be a plot and a kind of breathtaking full page picture like this or this that I loved to death.
posted by bleep-blop at 11:54 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Sad that the Wormy collection never happened.

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posted by Chrysostom at 11:54 AM on March 28


Yeah, I didn't realize Wormy just stopped. I thought I had lost track of it.

Sad the collection didn't happen too.

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posted by bswinburn at 12:07 PM on March 28


Oh wow, Wormy. Had totally forgotten about that.

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posted by octothorpe at 12:09 PM on March 28


Fantastic post. I feel like this style lives on (of course DnD is pretty popular it seems these days) in Paper Sorcerer for PC. One of the things that stood out to me was just how much character those drawings have and they reminded me immediately of this style.

It makes me really sad and upset to see all these guys dying. The future is finally here, I guess.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 12:16 PM on March 28


I'm pretty certain I rode in a cab he drove (having no idea who he was).
posted by Perfectibilist at 12:27 PM on March 28


I always loved me my black legion markers, especially the spiked d6.

That was always the most memorable one for me as well, and the first one that comes to mind when I think of the game. And here is a small Titan story, as I will likely have another good chance to tell it:

In Titan, an attack involves rolling a handful of dice, determined by the power of the attacker; the various creatures each have a strength rating -- a comparison of the attacker's and defender's strength determines the likelihood of damage. Evenly-matched foes damage each other half the time, on a 4 or better on each die. A weak attacker such as a lion might damage a strong defender like a dragon only on a 6, while, the dragon on its counterattack would deal damage on a 2 or better for each die rolled. The overall commander of your legions is called a titan -- it is quite powerful, and its elimination means you are out of the game.

So -- a game of Titan down to its closing moments: each titan is strong enough that it rolls twelve dice. My opponent, Ed, is on the ropes. He has almost lost his titan, which with my latest attack is reduced to a single point of damage left. It is his roll to counterattack my titan, which still has twelve points of damage. The only way he can survive one more round is if all twelve of the dice he is shaking come up 4 or better (and subsequently all twelve of the dice I will roll come up 3 or less). He shakes and shakes and rolls twelve dice: all 4s, 5s and 6s. I look on in disbelief, and marvel aloud at the unlikeliness of that roll (1 in 2^12, or one chance in 4,096.) Ed, bless his stunted understanding of math, insists it was a fifty-fifty chance. Nothing could dissuade him from this belief.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:35 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


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posted by homunculus at 12:45 PM on March 28


absolutely the best

Emirikol the Chaotic.

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posted by Ironmouth at 1:00 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


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posted by JamesD at 1:38 PM on March 28


I can't believe he died just as he was going to end his 30 year self-imposed exile from the RPG world.

I wonder if anyone is close to him. I wonder if he told anyone why that happened.

I kind of assume some mental illness is involved. There are many extremely common forms of mental illness, which, however mild, would be enough to provoke you to abandon something you'd been involved in with great success and acclaim. Especially if you were an artist who had no insurance, and it was the mid 80s and decent mental health care was hard to come by in the first place.

Pure baseless speculation of course. I wonder if we'll ever know why that really happened.

He was absolutely the best in the industry, though. Or on a par with the best; there are a couple others I would compare to him but nobody I'd put above him. And prolific! Amazing.

I owned the D&D hardbacks not because I ever played them (I was a Tunnels & Trolls kid) but because they were full of beautiful art.
posted by edheil at 1:42 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


It's amazing how, thirty years later, I still feel a nerd youth connection to his art. His story has always been a strange one, and I hope whatever personal crisis made him abandon his life in his early 30s was something he was able to overcome.
posted by aspo at 1:56 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


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Did you know that the fighter on the DM's screen was a self portrait? And that Emirikol the Chaotic's ride was down the street of the Knights in Rhodes?
posted by fings at 2:03 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Aw. There was a wide range of artistic ability in the 1st ed AD&D books, but long ago I noticed that all the best ones were Trampier's.
posted by zompist at 2:12 PM on March 28


And that Emirikol the Chaotic's ride was down the street of the Knights in Rhodes?

I did, but I am surprised that your link does not have the money shot. I winder how many past and future AD&D geeks have wandered down that street unknowing and gone, "whoa."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:23 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Being a little crooked at the seams and lacking polish seemed to help emphasize the necessity of bringing your own imagination to the game. They helped stimulate more study-hall-drafted dungeon adventures than Photoshop-polished realism could have.

Maybe it is my generation of gamer geeks, but I know a dozen or a score of players who started drawing based on Trampier/Sutherland/Otus' style and a few who eventually found their footing and became quite accomplished artists. By the time I bailed a few years later, the default cover art had moved on to Elmore and Caldwell, which nobody bothered trying to emulate.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:43 PM on March 28


I've never forgotten that Foglio quote about the situation: "When an artist's checks are returned uncashed, he is presumed dead."

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posted by bitmage at 3:17 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by robcorr at 4:01 PM on March 28


I too assume there was some mental illness issue going on with Trampier. I find the whole story terribly sad.

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posted by Windopaene at 4:45 PM on March 28


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I had always wondered what had happened with the sudden cutting off (not end) of Wormy.
posted by immlass at 5:16 PM on March 28


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You can get figures based on some of his classic designs -- IDK if Trampier got any $ for it though.

http://otherworldminiatures.co.uk/shop/demons-devils/dd1a-the-demon-idol-diorama-pack/
posted by rahnefan at 5:26 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


I loved Wormy... the only reason to check out Dragon Magazine every month when I was in middle school.

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posted by Slap*Happy at 5:56 PM on March 28


Man, if you told me D.A.T. died, I feel like I'd know more about it.

Hoping pops didn't throw my old bankers box of Dragon magazines out...

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posted by Sphinx at 6:25 PM on March 28


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posted by Mezentian at 7:02 PM on March 28


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I know of his other art, but Wormy is the one I remember. There was something magical about it when I found it as a kid in my Dad's collection of Dragon Magazines. One of the first things I did when we got The Dragon Magazine Archive was go through it and read every issue. Damn, I wish he'd kept going with it. I always kept hoping he'd finish it or at least explain what he was going to do. Guess that is never going to happen now. Damn that was a great comic.
posted by Canageek at 7:41 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


For anyone who wants to read Wormy, it seems to be collected at The Dusty Tombs Of Angelfire.

Dare you (press) Enter?

I can't promise this isn't linked above. I can't see it, but someone may have cast Invisibility on it.
posted by Mezentian at 8:40 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


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The 1977 Lich King is the first drawing I ever redrew, with perfect care and attention. The illo in the book is maybe 1.5x2.5 inches. I redrew it onto a large sheet of drawing paper, maybe about 15x24, carefully matching stroke width and dynamics.

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posted by mwhybark at 2:42 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


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RIP, DAT
posted by Legomancer at 5:25 AM on March 29


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posted by antihostile at 5:32 AM on March 29


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posted by chunking express at 6:40 AM on March 29


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posted by aneel at 11:18 AM on March 29


I always loved me my black legion markers, especially the spiked d6.

richochet biscuit, I may just have to clone your tattoo idea. That and pull out my Titan box and put a game together.


Aaaaand I now have a spiky d6 on my forearm.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:37 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


D&D 1.0 (AD&D) Cover Art
posted by homunculus at 4:08 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Aaaaand I now have a spiky d6 on my forearm.

Post a pic once it heals up.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:34 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Man. We just lost Aaron Allston, and now Tramp?

Godspeed, Tramp and Wormy.


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posted by magstheaxe at 7:12 PM on March 29


Aaron Allston died?
Damnit.
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posted by Mezentian at 7:30 PM on March 29


Yes, Allston died at the end of February. I thought there had been a post on the blue about it?

Info here and here.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:42 PM on March 29


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posted by waraw at 8:35 PM on March 29


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posted by radwolf76 at 9:15 PM on March 29


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posted by Gelatin at 3:06 AM on March 31


The Cryptic Archivist was partway through a series on rare Dave Trampier art when this terrible news arrived: Part 1, new Titan art from the cover of Adventure Gaming #5; Part 2, hidden interior art from that same issue; Part 3, uncredited work in Keep on the Borderlands. I have been a DAT fan for decades and I confess I was totally unaware of the latter two items, despite owning all of these products for decades.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:24 AM on March 31


Aaaaand I now have a spiky d6 on my forearm.

Post a pic once it heals up.


Oh, and here it is (with the original 1" square counter for reference)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:40 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]


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