[RPG] functional reason for wizards to live in towers so often


The concept of wizard towers seems to predate D&D, but has there been a functional reason for this added to D&D? I'm going to be using the answer specifically in 5e, but wizard towers transcend versions of the game so I don't believe this question is specific to 5e.

Is there a functional reason for wizards to use towers so often? Or is it just a cultural/traditional thing wizards do?
For clarification: Is there a first-party reference that explains why wizards often use towers?

For example: in one of the most popular 5e modules, Lost Mines of Phandelver, there is a wizard's tower in Thundertree.

I've found this old popular Reddit thread which mostly has some joke responses with a few references to potential historical sources of the concept of wizard towers, but nothing notable that is "functional" in the sense of aiding a wizard practically.

In an episode of Critical Role Campaign 2, the DM referenced the fact that a good number of spells require arcane circles in the ground and that this is why wizards lean towards towers. This is cool, but I can't find any references to this being the why and it doesn't really explain the need for any sort of height.

Some possible answers, if they were supported by sources, might be: they're particularly easy for wizards to create; they're particularly good for wizards to research magic; or the height advantage is a great complement to some class feature.

This question is not looking for speculation or historical reasons. Answers should directly quote a D&D book that gives a clear direct, or indirect, benefit to wizards for living in a tower.

Best Answer

The Player's Companion gives specific benefits for a Tower

The Cook and Marsh Expert Rules for D&D were released in 1981. They were part of 'Basic D&D' when what was then-called 'AD&D' was in the latter part of its first edition. As such, they certainly did not establish the within-game trope of wizards building towers, but they played into the trope that already existed, both within-game and within fantasy literature before the game itself. Since they detailed levels 4-14, they covered what happened at 'name level', when characters could become landowners. While demi-humans built 'strongholds', fighters and clerics built 'castles', and thieves built 'hideouts', magic-users specifically built 'towers' (p. X7). At the time, the only mechanical benefit of this was that

  1. constructing a tower attracted a number of low-level apprentices to serve the magic-user

Later (1983) Frank Metzner revised the Expert Rules and in 1984 authored the two books of the D&D Companion Set. Here there was a more deliberate attempt to introduce multiple benefits for wizards with towers as sort of a post hoc justification for the motif. Metzner was once an active member of this site and could certainly provide more background, but he hasn't been 'seen' here for over a year.

As the Companion Set detailed levels 15-25, much of the information given was for high-level characters creating and administering Dominions. For the magic-user class, the possible non-adventuring options were to either build a Tower (now capital-T), or (for a magic-user who "cannot or does not want to maintain a Tower") to take service as a court wizard for an existing ruler (and see Player's Companion pp. 8 and 19).

For a magic-user who constructs a Tower, three specific benefits accrue, which can be considered class features 'unlocked' by Tower construction:

  1. The Tower serves as the character's Stronghold for the purposes of Dominion rule (the term stronghold now applied to any fortified structure from which a character ruled, not just for demi-humans).
  2. Once the Tower is built, a dungeon may be constructed beneath it. The dungeon will attract monsters, whose treasures and body parts may occasionally be harvested.
  3. The Tower will also attract wandering magic-users, who may then be invited to help with magic-item creation, as per the revised Expert rules.

All of the revised "BECMI" books were later collected in the Rules Cyclopedia. There, the rules for magic-user Towers are repeated (pp. 20, 134), and additional benefits added:

  1. If a Tower is built on the lands of a ruler, the ruler will issue a proclamation that their subjects are to avoid bothering the magic-user, and
  2. If the Tower is attacked, the ruler will come to the magic-user's aid (unless the attacker is another magic-user).