Old-School AD&D Artist David Trampier aka D.A.T. Is Gone

Old-School AD&D Artist David Trampier aka D.A.T. Is Gone

If you're of an age to remember the old game manuals, then you know his work, even if you never knew who he was.

There was a time when every gamer knew Dave Trampier's work. He created the images that defined roleplaying, back when THACO was something you memorized, or your character died trying. Whether it was the brilliant cover of the old Player's Manual, one of the many hundreds of illustrations that appeared in every one of the old books, or his long-running Dragon Magazine comic Wormy, if you were a tabletop freak in the 1970s and 1980s, you knew his stuff. D.A.T. is gone.

He left gaming long before that, for reasons which still aren't clear even now. In 1988 he stopped replying to TSR's mail, and didn't bother cashing any of the checks they sent him. "When an artist's checks are returned uncashed, he is presumed dead," said Girl Genius creator Phil Foglio, whose Phil and Dixie strips appeared alongside Wormy in Dragon. Whatever the cause of the bust-up, it was mutual on both sides; Trampier wanted nothing to do with TSR, and TSR wanted nothing to do with Trampier.

For a long time, nobody knew what had happened to him. Even his own brother-in-law, who could at least confirm Trampier was still alive, said he had no contact with him. Back in 2002 a college newspaper ran a feature on cab driver David Trampier, showing he was alive and well, but the feature didn't mention his gaming connection. When people sought him out after the feature saw print, Trampier rebuffed any attempt to draw him back into art or gaming. That side of his life was over, or so it seemed at the time.

Things changed. The cab company shut down, and Trampier was in poor health. He approached the owners of a local game store, Castle Perilous, trying to sell them some of his originals. There was talk of putting together a Wormy collection, of having Trampier exhibit his work at a local game convention. Trampier obviously still harboured bitter resentment against TSR and its successor WOTC, but was willing to entertain the idea. Ill health proved too much for him. He was 59 years old when he passed.

Source: Dork Tower


That's terribly tragic that he ended his days that way. I can understand souring on the idea of working with the TSR of those days, but it makes you wonder what caused him to turn away from all of it so completely until the very end. His art pretty much spawned and entirely new genre, so in that way he'll always live on.

Articles like these are what make me stick to this site, thanks.

It's an interesting story with a sad end. I wonder how many peoples imagination he fueled with his work with the Player's Handbook cover alone, besides me :)

I had all but forgotten about Wormy. Dang. I can't think of any event that could possibly make any artists I know give up making art. It's in their bones.

I loved Dragon Magazine. They had the "Dragon Mirth" section right next to Wormy where aspiring artists could get their fantasy-based cartoons published in a real magazine. (If you sent something in, they would send back what they didn't use with really productive feedback.) Oh yeah, and that hack of an artist--Phil Folgio. (I'm joking. I have Folgio Art adorning the walls in my home. Phil. Not Kaja. She's a hack. (I'm joking again.))

Sad to hear. I'm only tangentially familiar with his work, but what I have seen is amazing.

Not only am I familiar with his artwork, I still have those AD&D manuals!!! They were all a defining part of my life growing up, as his artwork helped me as a DM imagine the adventures I sent my friends on, weekend after weekend.


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