The ad is from the Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 5, 1980. The D&D books appear with the high-ticket electronic handhelds and consoles, including the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision.
Take a closer look at the pictures in the ad, which are actually an artist’s illustrations of the original Basic Set (David Sutherland) and Players Handbook (David Trampier) covers. The Basic Set is pretty straightforward, the only noticeable difference being the lack of gold. But for the Players Handbook, we see dark, hooded figures seemingly worshiping a demon idol, as opposed to a party of post-battle dungeon raiders, two of whom are attempting to chip the jewels out of the demon idol’s eyes (see below).
The “Satanic Panic” wouldn’t blow up until 1982-1983, but already the game had touched a nerve, and, consciously or not, people saw things in it that weren’t there. Fantasy role-playing was almost impossible for adults of a certain religious temperament to accept. In Trampier’s cover, probably the most distinctive and resonant image in all of D&D, all they could see was their greatest fear: not the reality of the devil, but the reality that their children might not believe what they believed.
The minis are great, but it’s the brilliant cover piece by Trampier that caught my eye. I believe it’s original to this product. I did an image search to see if I could find the piece anywhere else and thought it really interesting that Jim Steranko’s cover for the Blade Runner Marvel Super Special repeatedly popped up in “visually similar images.” Notwithstanding the somewhat similar color schemes, I think Tramp’s work does have quite a bit in common with Steranko’s renegade sensibilities.
Tramp is rightly famous for his early AD&D work, but in my opinion his interior art for the Star Frontiers modules Mutiny on the Eleanor Moraes (1984) and The War Machine (1985) is just as good or better. You can see a few examples below courtesy of starfrontiers.com, an excellent resource and history site. Go there to browse the whole modules.
The sign is cut off (and `Dungeons’ is misspelled!), but we’re looking at an AD&D club, hence all the core books and Tramp’s Dungeon Master’s Screen on proud display.
That’s got to be a homemade shirt in the middle, right? It’s not any TSR dragon that I’ve seen.
Our teacher rep, the only woman involved in the proceedings, seems quite happy to be there. I wonder what she thought at the time.
(Photo via Story Games forums)
No, you’re not mistaken. The dude sitting furthest back really is wearing a unicorn shirt with a rolled-brim Busch Beer hat. Got a problem?
And that’s the original 1978 Player’s Handbook with the David Trampier cover that scared the shit out of all the people who believed Satan was taking over the Earth one polyhedral die roll at a time.
If you haven’t already, check out my D&D Portrait series.
(Photo via Mojo Yugen/Flickr)
Wicked. These appear to be Trampier’s and Sutherland’s illustrations from the original Monster Manual (1977). And they’ve been marked down to 25 cents each!
Images are via the brilliant Monster Brains. Go there to see all of the transfers and other killer stuff.