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

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