Thoughts on the Loss of an Artist

Yesterday, I learned about the death of David Trampier or “D.A.T,” as he signed much of his work.  Before Elmore and Parkinson, before Lockwood and Reynolds, there was Sutherland and Trampier.  David Trampiers’s work in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons still sings to me.  In black and white, he drew the imaginations of many gamers and was a well-liked cartoonist for his comic, Wormy.  He painted the scene on the first ever Dungeon Master’s Screen (I still own 3 copies).  Trampier,Sutherland, and Otus are the ones who gave vision to many of my encounters and in my minds eye, it is their work that I first see when I think of traditional D&D monsters.  Trampier’s winged, black panther, Solomoriah, may have been the first of its kind and his ability to fly between the spheres is an image that has haunted my daydreams for years.  His art remains, but the artist is now gone.

It appears that Mr Trampier had a troubled life.  I and others have wondered about what caused him to separate himself from the gaming community; he had a lot of gaming credits to his name, when he withdrew from public life.  I never knew the man, but   his death at 59 bothers me greatly.

David Trampier was 22 or 23, when he and his brother-in-law, Tom Wham had illustrations published in the Monster Manual in 1977.  I was 12 or 13 and wouldn’t hear of D&D for another 3 years.  He wrote and illustrated a wonderful comic.  He seemed to have a great career.  His last published work of which I know is the Wormy comic installment in Dragon 132 in April 1988.  What happened in those 11 years that made him leave his public life and his art?  Where did the artist that gave me the rakshasa go?  Did he have a good life?  Did he regret his choice to leave?  Was he happy?  Who mourns him?  What do I do now?

What do I do?  I share my feelings about David Trampier with the world.  I game on and use his illustrations to enliven the imaginations of new players and old.  I continue to enjoy the great D&D artists that followed him.  I live my life to its fullest potential, create, and share.  After life is for living and living well, may I never forget that and do my best to do just that.

Kevin Gisi has a great You Tube response to mourning celebrities.  He is speaking about Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but I feel much the same about Dave Trampier.

Until next time, Game On!

Dragons, Dragons, and More Dragons (or “A Big, Boring List About Gregory’s Obsession”)

I love dragons.  I don’t remember when I first discovered dragons and my love for them, but I do love them.  It may have been the summer I read the Science Fiction Book Club Edition of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.  It may have been when I discovered, thanks to Suzanne White’s book Chinese Astrology, that I was born in the Year of the Dragon.  It may have been when I got my hands on copy of the 1977, 1978 edition of the Monster Manual.  Whenever it was, that love led me into placing a lot of dragons in my games.

Back in the Before Time, when Rilmorn was still being born, I gamed with a group of people that had multiple DMs.  While many of us took turns running games, each of us only played a single character.  Because each of saw things differently, it like slipping from world to world each game.  I was the first one to drop a a dragon in to the game and it was dead before the PCs found it.  It was a brass dragonskin that had magically inscribed names on it.  It was found in Mythgold and I’m fairly certain I stole that idea from B1In Search of the Unknown.  I don’t recall the first living dragon that I pitted against the PCs, but I suspect it was a green, given the Green Dragon Inn and the back story that I layered in.  It was during this period of my gaming career that Gregor the Gaunt (my, oh so creatively named, character) got his bronze dragon, Zuth, and became Gregor O’Dragon.  Gregor and Donalis rescued Zuth from the abandoned city of Wondercliff.  This period was a good time to encounter dragons and attempt to kill them. (2014.01.14)

After the other DMs decided to quit gaming or just sit on the other side of the screen, I became THE DM and truly began running games in the still unnamed world that would be called Rilmorn.  I put lots of dragons in my games during this time.  I used the five chromatic dragons to the best of their abilities.  I lifted the ice dragon from Pegasus Magazine and freaked out few players.  I dropped dragonettes in, as companions and familiars to PCs and NPCs.  Dragon Magazine issue 50 gave me “True Dragons;” it was a great article and gave me plenty of good ideas.  The Fiend Folio came out and I found oriental dragons.  I was very happy to drop the god Anu and the three-headed dragon, Dahak into my world, after I found them in the “Babylonian Pantheon” in Deities and Demigods.  The Monster Manual II gave me a couple new favorites, the mist and shadow dragons.  I crafted the Chalice of Dragons during this time; if a being bleed into the cup and then focused his or her will on it, a small dragon “familiar” would form out of the blood…the user had to randomly roll for which dragon type he or she got.  This time was notable for the sheer variety of dragons, it was fun. (2014.01.14)

My gaming group split up after several years of gaming.  We graduated high school and such.  About this time, Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Vancleave, MS got a new minister, Andy Cotten.  The parsonage became the place to game and it was during this time that Rilmorn was named and I started writing Rilmorn’s history.  I do not know where I lifted the idea of naming the Ages of History, but I liked the idea and named the era in which I was running games the “Age of Dragons.”  There were dragons in this era of gaming, but only one stands out.  It was the “woolly dragon,” from the cover of Dragon Magazine issue 81.  It was a good time for gaming, but a poor poor time for dragons. (2014.01.14)

My college days were days of dragons.  I got a copy of Dragons by Cory Glaberson.  Gem dragons and the missing color wheel (orange, purple, and yellow) dragons saw heavy play.  Gareth Eybender, an elven ranger ran by Mike Magee, ate the silver fruit of the Tree of Dianides and became silver dragon.  The Sept of the Dragon began collecting artifacts and other treasures to give in worship to or to control of various dragons.  The Dragon War began and every third or fourth game the PCs were faced with another dragon to battle.  The characters carried the battle to Kardon and its partdragon overlord and with his death hunted down his liege Babylon.  When the War of Dragons ended the political and parts of the physical landscape of Moytonia (the main continent of my gaming world) were completely reshaped.  Several more dragons were appeared before the end of the age: Chronepsis – Dragon of Fate, Dhivanara of the Purple Sands, and Tel-Mordin the Feared being three of the more important.  Tel-Mordin’s death marked the end the Age of Dragons and the beginning of the Age of Empire.

During my 3E days, I only remember the appearance of one dragon, Gareth Eybender, and he only appeared in his elf form.  3E dragons were meh to me.

I spent some time thinking on my 3E games and remembered that I had a pyroclastic dragon that the party defeated and once the dragon was dead, Hassiem (Matt Wagner’s character) bathed in its blood getting an extreme Natural Armor Class.  It was enjoyable. (2014.06.18)

 4E dragons in, probable, order of appearance

  • Ramala: green dragon – daughter of Rahab and Kitiara, wounded by her brother Sargon, finished off by the adventurers Surana and Aktara
  • Kitiara: green dragon – blue dragonborn that ate of the Tree of Dianides, grandmother of Kharus, a blue dragonborn, and grandmother-in-law of Suarana (played by Christina Guldensupp), a bronze dragonborn
  • Vanik: orium (red steel) dragon – poses as a brown dragonborn prince
  • Gareth Eybender: silver dragon from the Age of Dragons
  • Bolenbach: “Ship Dragon” – sea dragon slain by Gareth Eybender and Alkin du Fey, who used body to build a ship.  Ages later, Bollenbach was the figurehead for E3’s flying steamship, the Enterprise, as they continued to add magical improvements, Bollenboch returned to life.
  • Menethesis: argentyl (star silver) dragon – prophet who believed the adventurers known as E3 were a threat to the world, killed by E3
  • Io-Vol: dreamwrath dragon – bound to the artifact known as the Flask of Dragons
  • Feldspar (played by Matt Wagner): silver dragon – shifter, who under the influence of the Blood of Io from the Flask of Dragons, ate Menethesis’ heart and transformed into a silver dragon; lost his dragon form through a faery “blessing,” but regained it after eating of the fruit of Dianides
  • Paracelsus: purple dragon – oldest living child of Io-Vol-First of the Dreamwrath Dragons, master psion, and crafter of a clan of purple dragonspawn; found trapped in a mirror of life trapping and freed by Feldspar under the possession of Io-Val.
  • Esaerian: steel dragon – poses as a human, captain of the Enterprise, Bollenbach’s mate
  • Chronepsis: Triple Dragon of Fate – Stopped by to see what E3 was doing to the Kron, Chronepsis’ favorite humans
  • Unnamed: black “True Dragon” – Mutant black dragon from Dragon Isle, has two sets of wings and no forelimbs.
  • Belvar (played by James Burkett): silver dragon – Ate the Fruit of Dianides wrapped in a silver dragon scale to “assure” dragon form transformation. 
  • Dragotha: Undead Dragon – is involved in a Great Game with Gareth Eybender and the Lich Morgreth
  • Unnamed: firewrack dragon – guardian of Hellspawn Isle
  • Unnamed: seawrack dragon – guardian of Deathwater Isle
  • Unnamed: woodwrack dragon – guardian of Truewood Isle
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Colossus
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Goliath
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Titan

Wizards of the Coast has posted a History of Dragons in D&D on their DnD site.  I like it.

The Map of Dragons (2014.01.14)

Wyrnflight by Deby Fredericks is a blog about Dragons!  Go and Read it!  (2014.01.14)


2013 is Gone, What Shall I Do?

It’s been a sporadic year for gaming here on Rilmorn and today is the last day of the Roman Year.  I’ve enjoyed the games I’ve run and the parts of the world that I have designed, but I have wanted to do more.  So, with this in mind, I have decided to write up a few goals for 2014.

  1. Stop Story Arcs  I’ve been trying to run story arcs since 3E and I’m poor at it.  I do much better at creating multiple, big villains, having them run their agendas and letting the PCs decide who to challenge.  This lets the story develop organically.  The players become more involved.  It does not require me to keep steering the PCs back to the filled in portions of the map.
  2. Build Up My Map Collection   When I ran games among a group that shared multiple DMs, I was known as the Last of the Mapmakers.  My maps were not always good, but they were notable.  Players could mark on them.  They carried hidden symbols, previous owners’ marks, and, once, a coded message.  I fell out of that behavior, especially with the focus on tactical mapping and combat in 3E and 4E.  Since, I  have GIMPand other map tools, I will up my game again.
  3. Explore Iolta and Thrain  I designed a section of my world where I was going to run games using DnD Next playtest rules.  I never really got to play in that portion of Ryllmorrinn. Time to start.
  4. Make Use of Languages  I’ve made multiple “language trees,” since I read the articles in Dragon Magazine, issue #66.  I’ve quit using multiple languages, since supernal appeared in 4E and it allows the speaker to understand and be understood by anyone with who he or she is speaking.  I’m killing supernal for future games and giving power back to those players which really enjoy their PC being the translator and spy for the party in foreign settings.
  5. Have Fun  I need to do the things that help me enjoy the game, too.  NPCs with odd agendas.  Random encounters that may or may not ever have a bearing on the campaign.  (It will all depend on the players.)  Make maps…lots and lots of maps.  Use whatever ideas come to mind, at the first opportunity.  Enjoy the game for the simple joy of enjoying the game.

Game On!