Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne answers the column's title question--"What Ever Happened to Dave Trampier?"
After reports of Dave Trampier's death first appeared last week, many of those familiar with his art posted eulogies on the Internet asking what had happened to him.  If you lived in Carbondale, Illinois for the past fifteen years and had some knowledge of the gaming industry, you knew: he lived in a mobile home behind the old police station, drove a taxi for Yellow Cab, and wanted nothing to do with the gaming industry.
For those not familiar with him, Dave Trampier drew and painted many of the iconic images from Dungeons and Dragons' early years, including the cover to the first edition AD&D Player's Handbook, the first edition Dungeon Master's Screen and Wormy, which ran for 10 years in Dragon Magazine.  Trampier passed away March 24 from what I assume was some form of cancer, since his last text indicated his doctor was treating him for it.
Trampier worked as an artist for TSR from about 1978 to 1988, creating numerous iconic images for D&D, as well as working on the company's Gamma World and Star Frontiers games and writing and drawing the Wormy strip.  He also co-created, and contributed art to, the original Titan board game.  Trampier severed connections with TSR and left the gaming industry in 1988, after he felt the company reneged at the last minute on an agreement to publish the first volume of a Wormy collection. For the next ten years, from what I can tell, he drove a cab in Chicago, moving to Carbondale, where Castle Perilous Games & Books is located, in 1998.
Until 2008, he adamantly refused to have anything to do with the gaming industry, politely rebuffing any inquiries from companies wanting to publish Wormy and asking them not to contact him again.  I knew he drove a taxi in town, but since he had made it quite clear he had no interest in the gaming industry, I respected his privacy.  In 2008, he came into the store for the first time, as Valley Games had printed a new edition of his Titan game and he wanted to take a look at it.  He introduced himself as the designer, looked at the game, pronounced himself pleased with the results, chatted for a few moments and left.
I next heard from him a couple of months ago, after he had a stroke and Yellow Taxi shut down due to tax problems.  A flyer appeared on the store bulletin board, offering original TSR art for sale.  I contacted him and found he wanted to sell some artwork in order to cover some expenses.  I bought several pieces from him (you can see photos on the store’s website), and discussed the possibility of publishing the Wormy collection.  Surprisingly, given his non-interest during the previous twenty years, he was quite interested in doing so, asking about Kickstarter or companies that might be interested in working with him to bring the book into print.  I suggested Troll Lord Games, who had tried contacting him several years ago about re-publishing Wormy, and gave him contact information.
He did want to make sure that Troll Lord had no connection with TSR or Wizards of the Coast, he still had hard feelings towards TSR and, by extension, WotC.  I kept in contact with both him and TLG over the next few months about the project, but hesitated to press him about it, given that he had just gotten interested in the industry again.  He never moved forward any further on that front, though, as his doctors detected cancer and his health deteriorated.
He thought he was getting better though, as in late February, he agreed to appear as a guest at Egypt Wars, a gaming convention in Carbondale, and display original Wormy art and the collection mock-up he had put together in 1988.  Incidentally, it looked as if he had approached Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) at one point, as the mock-up contained a note "Published by Iron Crown Enterprises."  Since Troll Lord Games is to appear at the same show, I hoped the two might talk and move the publication of Wormy forward. Unfortunately, that won't happen now, though I am trying to contact the executor of his estate to see about moving forward with the project.
Thanks, Dave, for what you did for D&D and the gaming hobby I love.  It was a pleasure to know you.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of