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Dragon Reflections #9 - Welcome Wormy!

The Dragon Issue 9 was published in September 1977. It is 32 pages long, with a cover price of $1.50. This issue saw the introduction of one of D&D's most beloved characters.
Tim Kask's editorial is all about Origins '77. Kask has little positive to say regarding the convention, noting that "It seems to have fallen short of the rather optimistic attendance predictions" and also saying "We won’t go into the problems that 77 had: those that were there know what they were." A real rivalry was developing between Origins and GenCon at this time, and it was about to erupt into a paper war.

Nearly one-third of this issue is taken up by the conclusion of Harry O. Fischer's short story, "The Finzer Family." Given past feedback, it's hard to believe this much fiction would have been popular with the readership.

Professor Barker graces the pages of the magazine again, this time with a column called "Seal of the Imperium." Barker intended this as a regular feature where he would answer questions about Empire of the Petal Throne. As it happens, the column ceased after two appearances, with TSR's interest in the game apparently waning.

There are two articles for D&D. One is a wordy musing on alignment by Gary Gygax, while the other contains some useful treasure tables for tombs and crypts, from the pen of Jim Ward. And Brian Blume (co-owner of TSR) makes a rare written appearance with a collection of gunfighters for his Boot Hill game. All of this material is solid but not stellar.

More interesting is a new section called the Comix Cache, which includes the premier issue of Wormy. Wikipedia describes Wormy as a "cigar-chomping, pool hustling, wargaming dragon." The strip ran for about ten years and was much beloved by fans.

A peculiar fate awaited Wormy's creator, Dave Trampier. In 1977, Trampier had just joined TSR as a staff artist and was one of the principal illustrators for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books (which were then in development). Most notably, he was responsible for the cover of the Player's Handbook, which remains one of the most iconic images in the history of the game.

In the late 80's, with his reputation as an RPG artist secure, Trampier suddenly disappeared. Royalty checks were returned unopened, and even his brother-in-law (game designer Tom Wham) did not know where he was. Theories abounded as to what had happened. Some said he had a massive argument with TSR; some thought he had undergone a religious conversion, while others simply assumed he was dead. Many mourned the loss of such of an important artist.

But the Trampier story was not over. Nearly fifteen years later, a student newspaper ran a story on the local taxi scene in Carbondale. The story featured a cabbie named David Trampier, who had moved there from Chicago a few months earlier. The famous artist was missing no more!

Word spread quickly in gaming networks that Trampier had been located, and numerous people reached out to him. However, he seems to have had no desire to become re-involved with the industry. His attitude changed in late 2013 when he found himself sick and facing unpayable medical bills. He sold some original D&D art and began making plans to republish Wormy. Sadly, he died before he could realize these plans. He was just 59.

(If you study the history of RPGs for any length of time, you will grow depressed at the number of important game designers who end up sick and impoverished in their old age. Surely, we can do better.)

To happier news. Next issue of The Dragon sees something new - the inclusion of a complete game!

This article was contributed by M.T. Black as part of
EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program.M.T. Black is a game designer and DMs Guild Adept. Please follow him on Twitter @mtblack2567 and sign up to his mailing list. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
 
M.T. Black

Comments

I just had a read of the Gygax essay on alignment. It's pretty unmemorable "GM not letting the players dominate the game" stuff, but I did find this interesting (on p 5):

The Greyhawk Campaign is built around the precept that "good" is the desired end sought by the majority of humanity and its allied races (gnomes, elves, et al.). I have this preference because the general aim is such that more than self-interest (or mental abberation) motivates the alignment. . . . most planned actions which are written into the campaign are based on a threat to the overall good by the forces of evil.​

This creates a rather different picture from much of the more contemporary Grey-hawk rhetoric.
 

Matesamo

Villager
(If you study the history of RPGs for any length of time, you will grow depressed at the number of important game designers who end up sick and impoverished in their old age. Surely, we can do better.)

While I would agree with this statement almost all of the time, in this case there was not much we could do until the very end. The Trampier story remains one of the strangest ones in the history of RPGs.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
For me the EPT column was good, and Fineous Fingers. I was never much of a Wormy fan. One important thing for me was the advertisement for White Dwarf (on page 6 for issue #1). At a time when you couldn't look things up online the advertisements in The Dragon were an important source of information about miniatures and other game related material that might not make it into your FLGS (without a special order). White Dwarf was a solid magazine for D&D (and Traveller and Runequest) before it became a house organ. The alignment article was unneeded (for me) advice. The fiction was not for me either (I absorbed fantasy and science fiction novels as fast as I could find them, TD was not a fiction source for me). All in all this issue was not as good (for me) as the last one.

*edit* additions.
 

Shasarak

Villager
(If you study the history of RPGs for any length of time, you will grow depressed at the number of important game designers who end up sick and impoverished in their old age. Surely, we can do better.)
If you consider how much game designers get paid when they are working it must be a surprise that more of them are not impoverished in their old age.
 

the_redbeard

Explorer
M.T. Black said:
(If you study the history of RPGs for any length of time, you will grow depressed at the number of important game designers who end up sick and impoverished in their old age. Surely, we can do better.)
This is what I wrote on the occasion of Trampier's passing:

March 28, 2014
The world and the gaming community has lost another gem, one which might have been returning to us.

Many others have posted wonderful recollections of his work, including this rare picture. I've never seen that one before. Thank you.

I feel forced to add what is in part conjecture. If bringing up other topics into your gaming offends you, I won't apologize. I think this story shows how your different worlds are connected.

Trampier seems to have died from cancer which was only discovered in his recovery from a stroke. I can't say for sure, but according to this article, the vast majority of taxi drivers (Trampier's occupation) don't have health insurance.

Two years ago I lost a cousin to cancer which had grown to an advanced and nigh-untreatable stage because he never got health exams because he did not have health insurance.

I won't say that Trampier would still be with us if he had health insurance (he might have) or that health insurance and the resulting accessible care would have saved him. But accessible care does save people's lives.

Whenever I see benefits to raise money for figures in various communities due to health problems, I try to give. But it turns my stomach at the necessity for this.

We prematurely lose artists of all stripes because we as a society do not provide for each other what every other industrialized nation provides to all its citizens.

We lose other artists whose work we never get to see because they are stuck in creativity stifling jobs so they can have security for themselves and their families.

A social safety net for all allows people the security to take risks for their lives and their work.


I hope that as we toast Trampier as an artist, a gamer, a worker and a person that we can also remember that this tragedy and so many others might not be necessary.

Thank you Dave, you were gone too soon.


(the torchbearer is a self portrait that Dave often inserted into his work)

If I wrote this today, I'd probably point out the plot of Breaking Bad and lament that game design and art (Dave was both) doesn't pay what making meth does. hah. :(
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I just had a read of the Gygax essay on alignment. It's pretty unmemorable "GM not letting the players dominate the game" stuff, but I did find this interesting (on p 5):

The Greyhawk Campaign is built around the precept that "good" is the desired end sought by the majority of humanity and its allied races (gnomes, elves, et al.). I have this preference because the general aim is such that more than self-interest (or mental abberation) motivates the alignment. . . . most planned actions which are written into the campaign are based on a threat to the overall good by the forces of evil.​

This creates a rather different picture from much of the more contemporary Grey-hawk rhetoric.
I'm not sure that's as big a difference as you think it is. It's pretty clear that there are sympathetically written bastions of good including Veluna, Furyondy, Verbobonc, the Shield Lands, Nyrond... standing up to the evils of Iuz, the Horned Society, and the Great Kingdom. And it's also pretty clear that most of the events written into the campaign did indeed pose a threat to the overall good.

But I think he gave us a bit of the old "pay attention to what I say, not what I do" in the sense that he also created forces within Greyhawk actively working for neutrality - particularly Mordenkainen and his Circle of Eight. The fact that neutrality gets emphasized by people talking about Greyhawk over the last 25 years is because Gygax really did put that stuff in there no matter what he says he did or intended to do and it's a notable point of distinction from other campaign settings GH typically gets compared to (particularly the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance).
 

M.T. Black

Explorer
While I would agree with this statement almost all of the time, in this case there was not much we could do until the very end. The Trampier story remains one of the strangest ones in the history of RPGs.
Oh, I agree.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
I'm not sure that's as big a difference as you think it is. It's pretty clear that there are sympathetically written bastions of good including Veluna, Furyondy, Verbobonc, the Shield Lands, Nyrond... standing up to the evils of Iuz, the Horned Society, and the Great Kingdom. And it's also pretty clear that most of the events written into the campaign did indeed pose a threat to the overall good.

But I think he gave us a bit of the old "pay attention to what I say, not what I do" in the sense that he also created forces within Greyhawk actively working for neutrality - particularly Mordenkainen and his Circle of Eight. The fact that neutrality gets emphasized by people talking about Greyhawk over the last 25 years is because Gygax really did put that stuff in there no matter what he says he did or intended to do and it's a notable point of distinction from other campaign settings GH typically gets compared to (particularly the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance).

Mordenkainen was a PC :) So, it wasn't EGG working for neutrality, it was one of his players, who was, more or less, immortalized as a major NPC in the commercial version of the setting.
 
he also created forces within Greyhawk actively working for neutrality - particularly Mordenkainen and his Circle of Eight.
I think the Circle of Eight is a later creation, isn't it? I thought Gygax had the "Citadel of Eight".

I'm not sure how reliable Wikipedia is on these matters, but it gives us the following:

Gygax had the eight characters form an alliance that he called the Circle of Eight. Gygax had the Eight construct a stronghold in the middle of an evil land so they would not have to travel far to find adventure. After three years of game time, the resulting structure was the Obsidian Citadel, a massive and impregnable octagonal castle from which Gygax could direct any of the Eight to sally forth in search of adventure.

After Gygax was ousted from TSR in 1985, the company took over creative control of the published Greyhawk setting, including the names of any characters who had ever been named in TSR publications. In 1988, The City of Greyhawk boxed set by Carl Sargent and Rik Rose remolded Gygax's old "Circle of Eight" into a new plot device. ,. . . The mandate of this new Circle was to act as neutral referees between Good and Evil, never letting one side or the other gain the upper hand for long.​

None of the Gygax-era treatments of Mordenkainen that I know (eg in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, or the "reports" of RPGing with Monty Haul and gang in some early Dragon magazines, present Mordenkainen as fighting to "preserve neutrality". Which makes sense: Gygax's presentation of neutrality in his PHB and DMG is precisely not as something that one can work towards - according to True Neutrals (as described by Gygax), human action and striving produce imbalances in the natural order that undermine natural harmonies and result in suffering.
 

TerraDave

5ever
Mordenkainen was a PC :) So, it wasn't EGG working for neutrality, it was one of his players, who was, more or less, immortalized as a major NPC in the commercial version of the setting.
Yes, EGGS own PC. (He was a player as well as DM). Mordenkainen was infamously amoral.

But EGGs modules are full of evil villains to be defeated and dark conspiracies to be unraveled. In his writings, he noted the usefulness of longer term threats as a way to sustain player engagement. Gold and glory were good, but not always enough.
 

Zarithar

Villager
Trampier's artwork for the original DM Screen graces my computer monitor to this day. It remains my very favorite piece of D&D artwork. Many people feel that the golden age of D&D art came with Elmore, Easley, Parkinson, and Caldwell... but Trampier's art is second to none in my opinion (about neck and neck with Keith Parkinson). He didn't do as many full-on paintings, but his illustrations of monsters in particular are iconic.
 
Like many others, my introduction to the hobby is entwined with Trampier’s art. I started reading Dragon magazine at the library, and even though I didn’t understand the rules at the time (before I had even picked up a D&D book), the comics were a different story.
 

Zaukrie

Adventurer
I wonder why I don't feel the same way about any artists today, as I do that list above.......age? Over saturation? Lack of products now?
 

Zarithar

Villager
The artwork for 5e is a mixed bag. Bland and kind of "safe" if you ask me. I think they hit their peak during 2e-3e with the likes of Brom, Lockwood, etc.
 

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