OSR: Industrial Wizard Towers

Towers are currently seen as archaic in Endon. A wizard's lair is a well-appointed office decorated with rich mahogany, velvet, and oil paintings of dyspeptic ancestors, attached to a bustling factory floor by a discreet marble corridor with potted plants and simpering flunkies.

And yet, in their hearts, many wizards yearn for the days where a wizard on the rise would trundle into the wilderness, raise a tower from the bones of the earth, and challenge the fundamental forces of reality and real-estate laws at the same time. 

The enormous rise in the supply of iron, and the increasing density of Endon, means towers may once again be viable, but these will not be the cold and drafty stone stumps of old. 

In preparation for such a day ,I've scanned and whitepointed all 68 towers from Descriptive Illustrated Catalogue of the Sixty-Eight Competitive Designs for the Great Tower for London. (1890). Here's the folder. Full text on archive.org, commentary on publicdomainreview. Enjoy!

"Wizards always used to build a tower around themselves, like those ... what do you call those
things you find at the bottom of rivers?"



"Unsuccessful gangsters."

"Caddis flies is what I meant," said Rincewind. "When a wizard set out to fight, the first thing he always did was build a tower."
-Sourcery, Terry Pratchett

The Columbian Exposition of 1893 also produced some excellent designs intended to out-Eiffel Eiffel, though it's difficult to tell if some of the designs were ever intended to be taken seriously.

Chicago Tribune

A competition held by the Tribune brought a wave of implausible proposals. C. F. Ritchel of Bridgeport, Connecticut, suggested a tower with a base one hundred feet high by five hundred feet wide, within which Ritchel proposed to nest a second tower and, in this one, a third. At intervals a complicated system of hydraulic tubes and pumps would cause the towers to telescope slowly upward, a journey of several hours, then allow them to sink slowly back to their original configuration. The top of the tower would house a restaurant, although possibly a bordello would have been more apt. 

Another inventor, J. B. McComber, representing the Chicago-Tower Spiral-Spring Ascension and Toboggan Transportation Company, proposed a tower with a height of 8,947 feet, nearly nine times the height of the Eiffel Tower, with a base one thousand feet in diameter sunk two thousand feet into the earth. Elevated rails would lead from the top of the tower all the way to New York, Boston, Baltimore, and other cities. Visitors ready to conclude their visit to the fair and daring enough to ride elevators to the top would then toboggan all the way back home. "“As the cost of the tower and its slides is of secondary importance,"” McComber noted, "“I do not mention it here, but will furnish figures upon application."” 

A third proposal demanded even more courage from visitors. This inventor, who gave his initials as R. T. E., envisioned a tower four thousand feet tall from which he proposed to hang a two-thousand-foot cable of “best rubber.” Attached at the bottom end of this cable would be a car seating two hundred people. The car and its passengers would be shoved off a platform and fall without restraint to the end of the cable, where the car would snap back upward and continue bouncing until it came to a stop. The engineer urged that as a precaution the ground “be covered with eight feet of feather bedding.

-The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson


1d10 Reasons To Build A Tower
1 To loom over your enemies, see them scurry beneath you, and avoid the lamentations of street musicians.
2 Because your rival has built a tower and you simply can't have that.
3 To increase public confidence in your ludicrously ambitious scheme. Spend a million to steal a hundred million.
4 To project something. A bright light, a bubble shield, a weather deflector, or a death ray.
5 A creeping sense of personal insecurity.
6 To escape fog, smoke, smog, forog, frogs, floods, and the peculiar odours of Endon.
7 To show the Hated Foreigner that Endon is the greatest city in the world.
8 To celebrate a centenary / octogintary of an important event.
9 To leave your mark in the history of the world.
10 There's a chronic housing shortage in Endon. You can charge higher rents for a more prestigious building.

New Brighton Tower
Unlike the other entries in this post, this building was actually built, and is probably one of the best industrial wizard lairs I've seen.


  1. Tower Bridge (built 1886-1895) would be another good one, possibly for wizard twins who usually get along but every once in a while start feuding with each other. During those feuds there are towers but no bridge, which is rather inconvenient for everyone else.

  2. My fav wizard tower interpretation is either madness or being at the nexus of ley lines, which don't always run close to ground.

  3. My usual spin on wizard towers is that they're a scheme for creating an artificial "place of power" - the project naturally runs into all sorts of bugs, quirks, variations, strange phenomenons and so on that make for gimmicky dungeons.