Friday, April 4, 2014

RIP David A. Trampier

Readers of this blog will no doubt recall that for the first month or so of this year, it was dominated with ads for computer conversions of Dungeons & Dragons, that original tabletop fantasy role-playing game that was celebrating its 40th anniversary in January. Though I haven't played in a dog's age, the subject always reserved a soft spot in my heart (and perhaps my head), so it was with some dismay that this past week I received the news that "Tramp", distinguished by his "DAT" initials on his illustrations, had passed away. Beyond his distinguished work on the original Player's Guide cover and Monster Manual illustrations (including the awesome Intellect Devourer and Thought Eater, as well as the Medusa, Basilisk and Lizard Man), he was best known for the beautiful, hilarious and utterly post-modern comic strip Wormy, about an illegally-wargaming dragon, that was mysteriously discontinued from the pages of TSR house organ Dragon Magazine sometime back in the dawn of time. For decades he had completely dropped off of the map, only to be rediscovered a couple of years ago as a cab driver who had very effectively severed all ties to his former fantastic vocation.

As best as I can tell, he did not provide any illustrations that wound up on computer game boxes or in their advertisements, but as part of the deep access SSI enjoyed into TSR's art catalogue, several of his monster profile pictures ended up providing a definitive template for the games to build on. I thought that I could drum up numerous examples from FRUA, but the only one I could find was one I had already rounded up through Google Image Search. I wish I could provide further examples of the before-and-after conversion from b&w manual illustration to coloured videogame art, but for a lack of a handy Gold Box game resource viewer, I would have to play through all of the games in order to continue my investigations... which would leave this little tribute, if somewhat more complete, distinctly less timely.

An Efreet is a fire elemental of sorts, derived from Arabian myths as a sinister counterpart to the Djinn (or Genie). This one has kind of a repulsed face...

and you can see clearly that his disposition did not improve any when he came over to Pool of Radiance on the computer.
The swingin' space-age bachelor of the Monster Manual set, the Rakshasa is a variety of hyper-intelligent, evil magic-using tiger spirit from South Asian folklore. This one likes to spend his leisure hours indulging in some sweet pipeweed while lounging in a housecoat. (And if that isn't a hallmark of hyper-intelligence, then I don't know what is!) He and his pals will give visitors to Myth Drannor a hard time in Curse of the Azure Bonds.
The particulars are slightly tweaked (the weird character on the desk, a reference to the work of a comix friend, doesn't make the leap) but the apple does not fall very far from the tree.
I first posted about his death to a cadre of fellow travelers from the ANSI art era (another recent theme you may recall 8), as a panel from one of DAT's Wormy comic strips was the subject of my final attempt to paint on my computer screen with 80 x 25 textmode characters. It was a good idea, however botched my execution. But enough about my failure -- let's leave with an instalment of his Wormy strip: