Mar 31, 2014

David A. Trampier, 1954 - 2014

The news came out last week that one of the cornerstone artists who defined the tone of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, David A. Trampier, passed away on March 24, 2014, at the Helia Healthcare facility in Carbondale, IL. He would have turned 50 on April 22.


There have been a huge number of obituaries published online in the interim by far more important figures than me. Bill Coffin, who has worked extensively for Palladium, wrote:
"Tonight is a quiet night in Toad Town. Emirkol (sic) the Chaotic will not ride. The Lizard Man of the Monster Manual will menace no adventurers. The heroes of the D.M.’s Guide will close their glowing chest of treasure in a moment of silence. And the magic mouth at the dungeon’s bend will whisper an elegy in alien tongue to the wizard who granted it life."
This nicely encapsulates a number of references to Tramp's work. Emirikol the Chaotic* was a character from a full-page illustration in the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) Dungeon Master's Guide:


The Lizard Man was one of many monsters illustrated by Tramp in the AD&D Monster Manual (MM):


The "heroes of the D.M.'s Guide" refers to the following iconic image in the 1st edition book:

And the "magic mouth" refers to Dave's redeeming image of possibly one of the silliest spells from the original books, Magic Mouth:


Similarly, Jerry Stratton wrote in his post to the Biblyon Broadsides blog:
"The wyvern howls, and the dragon sits forlornly at the window of a deserted house."
 These refer to two of the iconic Monster Manual images, both linked in the blog post: the Wyvern and (my favorite of the Tramp MM illustrations) the Pseudo-Dragon:
All of this points out how influential Tramp was. Practically every illustration he ever did has appeared online, with fans pointing out one or another which fired their passion for gaming and/or illustration. Many have independently described it as "ripping the lid off" of their imaginations. For one man to have had such an impact on a legion of passionate gamers is surely the best testament to the raw talent Tramp possessed.

Which makes his loss to us all the more devastating. Personally, my favorite of his many contributions was the old Wormy comic strip in the back of 80s Dragon magazines. During its run, it featured a wild plotline that was involved and rich. Tramp's sense of continuity was astounding, and his attention to detail incredible. Not only were his characters real people with real motivations, but the fantastic lines and rich hues drew you in to the world of Wormy; I have no idea how he got such vibrant colors with ordinary pens.

What will aggrieve me the most from this loss is the fact that I will never know how the story ends. Tramp had a falling out with TSR that apparently soured him on the entire field of illustration; he ended up working as a taxi driver in Carbondale, IL. When he left, the Wormy strip was in the middle of an engaging story involving a group of dragon-hunting Giants, magical globes that contained demons, and a wargaming wager between the green dragon Wormy and a group of troll-slave-trading Ogres. There were so many elements being expertly handled, I would love to know how it all ends.

Our storytellers are leaving us, and they're leaving us wanting more. RIP David A. Trampier.

* Emirikol the Chaotic was such a popular image, several artists have extended the storyline of what happens on his wild ride. Artist David O. Miller had him encounter some resistance, while Rob Conley traced out his path, since the area details were taken from the Street of the Knights in Rhodes.In the 4th edition Hackmaster book, Emirikol got killed by a dagger. Jeff Easley showed us how Lokerimon the Lawful brought Emirikol's rampage up short in the Dungeon Crawl Classics book; DCC #73 Emirikol Was Framed is a further homage, including a piece by Doug Kovacs further extending his adventures.

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