David Trampier (1954 – 2014).

Having blogged before about my first impressions of role-play gaming, particularly that of Dungeons & Dragons, I won’t go into that here. That is, outside mentioning again one of D&D’s main attractions for me — the art of David Trampier.

In 1977, Trampier, along with David Sutherland and brother-in-law Tom Wham, were the first illustrators for the burgeoning Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, the first published product of which was the Monster Manual.

Next came the Player’s Handbook, Trampier’s cover art for which has since become an iconic portrait of the fantasy role-playing experience.

In 1978, Trampier provided the cover and interior art for James Ward’s brilliant post-apocalyptic role-playing game Gamma World.

In 1979, Trampier supplied the art for the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Screen (which I proudly own a mint-condition copy of):

As well as the cover and interior art for Gary Gygax’s seminal work T1 – The Village of Hommlet.

Finally, beginning in the September 1977 issue of TSR’s Dragon magazine, Trampier turned the tables on the role-playing heroic types and made the bad guys the focus of his laconic wit with Wormy.

Sadly, Trampier bowed out of his illustration career in the late 1980’s leaving his publishers befuddled and fans (myself included) saddened by his loss. It wasn’t until 2002, due to a Southern Illinois University student newspaper article, that anyone knew of what had happened to David Trampier (he had been working as a cab driver in Carbondale, Illinois). Because of this, Trampier was again courted by many companies to either provide new art or allow publishing rights to his previous work, both of which he denied. In 2013, Trampier suffered a stroke, lost his job when his taxi company went out of business and found out he had cancer. Castle Perilous Games & Books, a local game store in Carbondale, wanted to negotiate his art for the Dungeon Master’s Screen, as well as republishing his Wormy comics via Troll Lord Games. He had been scheduled to make an appearance at the local Egypt Wars convention, where he would have been able to contact the Troll Lord Games representatives, but passed three weeks before the convention.

David Trampier’s art was concise, detailed and effortlessly stylized at many levels. His work brought a dimension of credibility to the games he visualized, beyond simple illustration. Upon seeing his art one got the idea that something deeper was at work, cultures and ecosystems were being represented.

His work was a considerable influence on me, and surely millions of D&D fans for over 30 years. If I had to gain any insight of the man through his work (which, honestly, I am left to do), he was both immensely intelligent and devoted to the worlds he helped create. Due to his position at the dawn of what would become to be a national obsession in the 1980s (and ever since), Trampier will forever be associated with the phenomenon that is Dungeons & Dragons — if not one of the many reasons it was and continues to be so successful.



2 thoughts on “David Trampier (1954 – 2014).

  1. Very nice write-up—one of the best of the many I’ve read since he died. I especially liked the choice of illustrations and your observation that Tramp’s vignettes are so often evocative of a bigger story. This worked on the smaller scale, too: my usual reaction to his drawings is “So what happens next?!”

    Great piece 🙂

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