Obituary: David A. Trampier, Early Dungeons & Dragons Artist | Fanboys Anonymous

Obituary: David A. Trampier, Early Dungeons & Dragons Artist

Posted by Eric Minton Sunday, March 30, 2014
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 David A. Trampier, who passed away on March 24 at age 59, is familiar to old-school tabletop roleplaying gamers for his Dungeons & Dragons-related art. His work was stark and atmospheric, effectively portraying the amoral tone of the game's sword and sorcery roots. Many noteworthy images from the game's inception were his work—most notably the menacing gem-eyed idol gracing the cover of the original AD&D Player's Handbook, but also including various well-known and well-loved adventure covers and iconic monster and character illustrations. Perhaps his best-loved project, though, was the comic strip Wormy.

Wormy ran in the back of TSR's Dragon magazine (then called The Dragon) from September 1977 to April 1988. I loved it at the time, and I still consider it one of the best gaming-related comics I've ever encountered. Stylistically, it combined the rich colors, clean lines, and lush backgrounds reminiscent of Miyazaki with the sort of comically exaggerated characters found in Bakshi's cartoons. His characterization and dialogue were equally vivid. (For a more adept technical explanation of Trampier's strengths as a cartoonist, click here.)

Read original David A. Trampier comics on the Comixology app
Those dwarves have some nerve!
The story's meandering plot threads centered around the eponymous Wormy—a billiards-playing, cigar-puffing dragon wearing a cap down over his eyes—and the numerous monsters living in and around his wilderness lair. These included dimwitted ogres, mischievous trolls, a wisecracking imp, cantankerous (and short-lived) dwarves, and the puissant human sorcerer Gremorly and his winged feline ally Solomoriah.

Buy original Tampier artwork on auction at eBay
Trampier's work evolved over the course of the strip.
A central narrative arc revolving around a cache of demons trapped in large glass globes that Wormy used as billiard balls was never resolved. The last Wormy strip appeared in Dragon issue #132, leaving the narrative incomplete, and the author's advertised self-published Wormy anthology fell through. It turned out that Trampier had simply stopped sending in comics, and the checks for his last few strips came back to TSR unopened. For years, no one knew what had happened to him, although as fellow Dragon cartoonist Phil Foglio said, "When an artist's checks are returned uncashed, he is presumed dead."

Then in 2002, the Daily Egyptian—the student newspaper at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.—featured an interview with a local cabdriver named David Trampier. The RPG community was quick to track him down. It turned out that Trampier had gotten tired of gaming and cartooning and had chosen to cut all ties with that part of his life.

For years, Trampier rejected offers to create or republish gaming art or to involve himself in the gaming community. Recently, as a result of health issues and losing his job, he'd begun selling off old art pieces and had agreed to appear as a guest at a Carbondale gaming convention. His death cuts short any hope of his return to the gaming world.

Here are a few more iconic illustrations from Trampier's portfolio:

Let's Play Dungeons & Dragons Online Trampier artwork images


Dungeons and Dragons artists David A. Trampier

Were you around for the early days of Dungeons & Dragons? Please share your recollections of old-school gaming art in the comments below
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