Monday, March 28, 2011

Wham vs Trampier: two paradigms

The above picture by Dave Trampier is one of the iconic images of Advanced D&D, along with many others of Trampier's illustrations. Without question, Dave Trampier's art was the defining imagery of fantasy gaming for me, and for many others. The dark shadows, gleaming gold, and rugged-looking adventurers in this picture come together to form an intensely powerful piece of art.

And then, marching bravely into the landscape ...

... come Tom Wham's adventurers, an equally avaricious-looking crew.

These two groups of adventurers represent two entirely different ways, I think, to perceive the game. On the one hand, Trampier's image is a brilliant portrayal of what happens INSIDE the fantasy world, seen from its own eyes.

On the other hand, Tom Wham's picture is an adventuring party seen from the outside, from the perspective of the gamer looking in. Because let's face it, most of our gaming sessions have plenty of Tom-Wham-adventurer moments in them. Quoting Monty Python? That's the Tom Wham guys. Dancing around the table when your roll for dexterity comes up triple 6's? That's the Tom Wham guys.

Trampier renders images of the fantasy that surrounds the gaming. Wham, however, does an equally fantastic job of rendering imagery of the gaming that surrounds the fantasy.

It's like the optical illusion of the vase and faces:

These two artists basically define two different perceptions of the same thing.

So remember, when you are looking at Dave Trampier's art, Tom Wham's art is looking at you.


  1. Argh. Your posts are too insightful! Stop it.
    j/k ofc.

  2. That little eyeball on the sword makes me smile every time.

  3. Oh wow, I forgot about that image on the character sheets. That's for bringing it to light again for me.

    - Ark

  4. Great post! Now I need to make a sword with an eyeball in its blade. :)

  5. One of the reasons I like Dave Sutherland's D&D art is that his depictions of characters and creatures sometimes remind me of miniature figures.

  6. Spot On! :D

    One great thing about the Holmes' Basic D&D rulebook is that it includes great illustrations from *both* Trampier and Wham. (I can't think of many D&D rulebooks that have both artists' work.)

  7. Akrasia: The DMG has art from both.

  8. Surprisingly, faoladh, the DMG doesn't have any art by Tom Wham (I just checked). The cartoons aren't by Wham (years ago I thought that they were, until I became more familiar with Wham's style, and checked the DMG credits).

  9. I miss the kind of gaming company eclectic enough to put both Trampier and Wham art in their books. It seems that whimsy and self-satire in contemporary gaming have been outsourced to such providers as Munchkin, Order of the Stick, and Knights of the Dinner Table.