Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dave Trampier - Basic D&D Artist

TSR promotional poster circa 1978; photo from a recent Ebay auction by the Collector's Trove

One of TSR's finest artists, Dave Trampier, passed away this past March. He was perhaps best known for the demon idol artwork on the cover of the original Player's Handbook (seen above in a poster from the era), and the long-running Dragon magazine comic strip, Wormy. It was also reported by the owner of the store Castle Perilous Games & Books that Trampier was planning on attending an upcoming game convention, after a long absence.

Here I'll take a look at Dave's work for the first Basic Set. Dave had three pieces of art in the rulebook. Two were in the first edition; one was added to the 2nd edition.

The first is an illustration of the spell Web on page 16, signed 'D.A. Trampier'. This picture is one that helps to show the 'dungeon' setting of the game. It's not clear who the villain is here, but the wizard certainly looks menacing. He wears a 'stars & moon's cap like the wizard on the cover of the rulebook, and carries an interesting three-prong staff.

The second is an illustration in the combat section of the rules on pg 18. I always associated this with Bruno the Battler's combat with a big goblin on page 21, but the details don't match: the creature here actually looks like a minotaur with a battle axe. The background here is abstract, perhaps meant to be a stone wall underground. I don't see Dave's signature, so illustration may have been cropped from his original art.

This thoughtful manticore, signed 'DAT', was added to the Monster List section of the 2nd edition of the rulebook in Nov 1978. Perhaps it was originally intended for the Monster Manual (which came out in late 1977) but wasn't completed in time? My original rulebook was pretty trashed, missing pages from the beginning and end, so I cut out this picture and turned it into a refrigerator magnet I keep with my Halloween decorations. 

In the same year a similar manticore, in a lair surrounded by treasure, also by Trampier appeared on the cover of the Monster & Treasure Assortment, Set 3, Levels 7-9. The original was tinged blue on the cover but the black & white original later appeared in the combined set in 1980.

Dave Trampier's original art that became the cover of the module B1

Trampier's work also formed the basis of the cover of the original cover of the module B1 In Search of Unknown, which in 1978 was the first module to be included in the Basic Set. The cover art on the published module is signed "DIS & DAT", indicating it is the combined work of David C. Sutherland (aka DCS) and Trampier. Dave's original version of this artwork was later shown in an early issue of Polyhedron (#5, 1982), thanks to the editor Frank Mentzer, who was given access to TSR's old art files. See a comparison with published art in this DF thread by paleologos.

Trampier didn't contribute any other work to B1 (all of the interior illustrations are by Sutherland), but he did do the cover and all interior illustrations for another introductory module of the era, T1 The Village of Hommlet (1978) This module was for the same levels as Basic D&D, 1-3, but was marketed as an introduction for AD&D rather than Basic. Above is Dave's cover art for the original version of this module, showing a montage of encounters from the ruined moathouse.

Finally, Trampier also illustrated this awesome "You'll Be Amazed" advertisement from the fall of 1978 for the D&D Basic Set and the Dungeon! boardgame, which I wrote about here. Note that it contains yet another Manticore.


  1. A very nice write-up, Zenopus. Don't forget one more uncredited illustration that showed up in the second printing of B2, included with some Holmes Basic D&D boxed sets:

    1. I had intended to include that! Thanks for posting the link. I'll just let your excellent work speak for itself.

  2. A true great! Thanks for that 'basic' look. And Cryptic Archivist, I agree that's Tramp.