It's been a while since we paid a visit to Lake Geneva, so let's take one more stroll down memory lane. These are the last of the old photos from inside the Hotel Clair, generously provided by Kevin Hendryx.
First we see Steve Sullivan hard at work in the 2nd-floor artists' studio. He's coloring designs onto the airplane counters for Dawn Patrol, Mike Carr's long-lived game about WW1 air combat.
When I started at TSR in May '81, the art department consisted of Jim Roslof and Erol Otus. Bill Willingham and Jeff Dee had just been fired for having bad attitudes. (Basically, they protested too loudly, or too satirically, over the previous week's firing of Paul Reiche and Evan Robinson on trumped-up charges of insubordination. The whole affair was a tragedy of ham-fisted mismanagement. The four of them were still in town so I got to know them at least a bit, but within months they had packed up and moved on, much to my regret. The result of this heavy-handedness was an overworked, thoroughly dispirited R&D staff. Lorraine Williams came in for heaps of criticism over the way she ran TSR in the late 80s and 90s, much of it deserved, but she was an amateur compared to Kevin Blume.) Anyway, back to the art staff ...
Jim and Erol were the only full-time illustrators left, but a few other people elsewhere in the company acted as contributing artists: Jim's wife Laura (worked in pre-press), Dave Sutherland (R&D manager), Dave "Diesel" LaForce (hobby shop/warehousing), and Steve "SDS" Sullivan (who split his time half-and-half between editing, illustrating, and mapping; yeah, that's more than two halves). Dave Trampier (who was a freelancer) was no longer doing any work for the gaming side but still contributed Wormy comics to Dragon. Darlene, too, was doing a fair amount of work for Dragon but little or nothing for R&D. Within a few months, the art department picked up Jim Holloway, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, and Harry Quinn. Keith Parkinson came a bit later, as did Tim Truman and Clyde Caldwell.
(OK, dig this all you lovers of old-time D&D illustration. This was a time when you could walk down to the 2nd floor, hand your character sheet to Larry Elmore or Jeff Easley, and ask him to draw your character in that little box in the corner. Yeah. I don't have any of those character sheets anymore. How stupid am I?)
The window behind Steve was one of several that looked out over Main Street. The Lake Geneva beach was less than a block south of our building, which meant that in summer, lots of young women in bikinis paraded up and down the street outside these windows. Larry Elmore and Jim Holloway kept cameras with telephoto lenses at their desks in order to snap photos when a particularly attractive "model" came into view. Purely as reference material for their illustrations, of course.
Here we see Zeb Cook sitting in his office and chewing on a rubber rat. That says pretty much all you need to know about Zeb ...
On the 3rd floor of the building where R&D was located, there was one long hallway that ran the length of the building with offices arrayed on both sides. The building was so out of shape, however, that if you stood at one end and looked down that hallway, you could see how the building had twisted and settled in all the misalignment in the walls and undulations in the floor. We thought it was funny at the time, but we weren't all that bright.
At the north end of the hallway was a 'conference room', an oddly-shaped room that was too big to be someone's office but not really big enough to hold everyone for a meeting. When the whole department was packed in there, you could feel the floor sagging under your feet! Everyone had to sit or stand verrrrry still. Here's a shot of Jim Ward sitting in that room, playtesting something. It looks like WizWar, a boardgame about dueling wizards, but I can't be sure.
Those windows behind Jim look out over the intersection of Main and Broad Streets. This is the room where Evan Robinson leaned out the window with a squirt gun, causing an alarmed citizen to call the police and report a sniper in a 3rd-floor window.
Finally, here's the same room from the opposite angle with another playtest going on. (Thursday afternoon was playtest time. Whatever needed playtesting would be laid out here and players rounded up. Often these were over-the-transom submissions from outside the company. A few were good, most were endearingly amateurish, and some were truly execrable and agonizing to play, or try to play.)
Standing in the photo is Harold Johnson, who was the design manager at the time. Seated are Mark Acres (with his back to the camera), Tom Moldvay (chin on fist, characteristically), and Mike "Mikey" Price (with the long hair). They appear to be playtesting Mark's game "Explorers," a tile game about trying to be the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe. This game never saw publication but it was an office favorite. For many years after Mark designed it, we'd pull it off the shelf once a year or so for another playing. It was rather like a Eurogame, a couple decades ahead of their appearance, and much bigger (in number of tiles and required table space). Everyone agreed that it was a terrific game, but it would have been too expensive to produce at that time, so it went into a box and got shelved. When the TSR game library overflowed its space and had to be pared down, Troy Denning took this home so that it would be preserved. He still has it.