There are plenty of divine domains out there. While clerics aren’t the only D&D characters to worship gods, they certainly are the first ones we think of.
The next step from there is typically thinking about the good domains. You know – gods focused on life, renewal, protection, justice, all those things that make your stereotypical cleric such a paragon of justice.
Today, we’re going to be talking about a god that exemplifies all of these qualities, a god that any good cleric would be happy to devote themselves to.
That god is Lathander, and we’re going to be discussing everything that makes him such a great candidate for worship. From his history to the deeds of his followers, this article will cover it all.
Who Is Lathander?
Lathander, also known as the Morninglord, is a neutral-good greater deity in the Faerûnian pantheon.
His portfolio, or the areas of interest he has power over, includes creativity, dawn, renewal, rebirth, vitality, athletics, self-protection, and youth, among other things.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Symbol: Road traveling into a sunrise
Domains: Life, Light
Titles: Morninglord, Commander of Creativity, Inspiration’s Dawn, The Rose-and-Gold God, Bringer of the Dawn, Lord of Birth and Renewal, Patron to Spring and Eternal Youth, Mentor of Self-Perfection
When we talk about good gods, Lathander has to be one of the first that gets brought up. Lathander, and his followers in turn, is all about love, self care, and betterment of oneself.
With this attitude of, essentially, enlightenment, Lathander is also commonly brought up when discussing art, beauty, culture, and similar concepts.
Naturally, such a god is portrayed as rather beautiful. The god’s avatar was that of a young, slender, muscular man adorned in a robe of rich red, pink, and yellow hues.
His visage evoked an anthropomorphization of a sunrise. His skin would be a golden tan, his hair a set of golden locks, and he’d probably have an actual decent amount of golden accessories.
Sure, he might sound a bit pretentious, but when you’re the embodiment of rebirth and self-love, it can pay to be a bit vain.
While it isn’t one of his more attractive qualities, this deity definitely is a bit absorbed in himself.
In fact, frustrated with the chaos and evil that other gods were spreading throughout the planes, Lathander attempted to recreate the Faerûnian pantheon in his own image.
This event came to be known as the Dawn Cataclysm, a historical event that led to the death of several gods and the splitting of a few into separate deities.
How exactly Lathander attempted to do this, scholars of the realms don’t exactly know. In fact, it’s one of the great historical puzzles.
Not only can no one figure out exactly what happened, no one knows exactly when it happened.
What we do know of the Dawn Cataclysm is that it harmed Murdane, Tyche, and Selune.
Murdane, goddess of pragmatism and the lover of Helm, died, which naturally found an enemy for Lathander in the guardian of guardians.
Tyche, Lathander’s lover at the time and goddess of chance, refused to follow Lathander down the path he was treading and left him.
When Tyche almost died to a seed of Moander, Selune attempted to save her. She sacrificed herself, splitting into the two deities Tymora and Beshaba.
The whole event certainly reshaped the pantheon but not necessarily in the way Lathander intended. While his plan horribly failed, many of his followers believe that he does still intend to try again.
The Dawn Cataclysm is a very interesting, if underexplored, event in the Forgotten Realms’ history.
It’s certainly one that you can explore at your table from the vantage point of heroes in the realms dealing with the repercussions of such a schism among the gods.
Of course, a cataclysmic event resulting in a major shift in a pantheon and the death of several gods isn’t the only thing Lathander is known for.
He’s also known for his connection to the god Aumanator, an ancient lawful-neutral sun god.
At some point between the Time of Troubles and the Spellplague, Lathander disappeared. During that time Aumanator reemerged as a lawful-good deity with much the same portfolio as Lathander.
This gave credence to the idea held by certain groups of Lathander’s followers that the two were actually one in the same.
This idea stated that Aumanator, god of the sun, was a more mature and developed version of Lathander, god of the dawn.
With rebirth being a central theme to both gods, this connection seems to make even more sense, and a cycle between the two almost seems like a natural occurrence.
With that, Lathander did eventually return after the events of the Second Sundering with more followers and worshippers believing in the duality.
Worshipping Lathander: The Morninglord as a PC Deity
Lathander is a god with dominion over Life and Light. As such, many clerics and paladins gravitate to his cause.
Followers of this deity are often referred to as the Awakened, with clerics of Lathanderian faith being referred to as Dawnbringers.
Such a god gives credence to characters that care about the wellbeing of others as much as themselves.
An oath of redemption paladin, focused on seeing the good in others and ushering them toward a new way of life, is a perfect candidate for such a character.
Clerics of the life and light domains that worship Lathander exclusively will likely follow in that oath’s footsteps.
Such clerics should promote wellbeing above all and will likely avoid fighting except for in the most dire circumstances or in the face of a most heinous evil.
Even then, they might still try to see the light within such a corrupted being.
Roleplaying a worshipper of a fictional god becomes much more believable when we pray to them in a consistent way.
In the mythos of the Forgotten Realms, Lathander is prayed to often by any who worship the Faerunian pantheon as a whole.
Here are some times you might pray to Lathander, along with some sayings associated with the god.
- Prayer before embarking on a new journey.
- Invoking the god to seal an alliance.
- Prayer for good fortune in a new business venture.
- Doing anything important at dawn to seek Lathander’s favor.
- “From death, life.”
- “There is always another dawn.”
- “In the dawn, beauty reigns, and the way is clearer.”
Clerics of Lathanderian faith that were recognized by Lathander would take on new names and titles within the clergy’s hierarchy.
The titles used by dawnbringers were as follows (in ascending order of hierarchy):
- High Dawnlord
- High Morninglord
- High Mornmaster
- Sunrise Lord
While this hierarchy of titles was used to denote connection to the deity, higher-ranking priests had no more say in the goings on of the church than any other dawnbringer.
Adventuring clerics of Lathander will often wear very utilitarian clothes but are sure to incorporate reds and yellows into their outfits. Invoking the spirit of the dawn in all things is important for connection to the god.
As vain as Lathander may be, his followers preach betterment and service as the highest tenets of their faith.
Holding strict adherence to rituals and prayer is nowhere near as important to Dawnbringers as actually being of service to others and spreading good will.
Lathander also encourages his faithful to spread his teachings with vigor. Naturally, this has spread the church of Lathander far and wide across Abeir-Toril.
The church has grown extremely wealthy over millennia. So it wouldn’t be surprising if most temples of Lathander are extremely ornate.
The churches are in fact a great mirror for Lathander. They are physically stunning and might tend toward excess, but they definitely still care about spreading the message of creativity, life, and renewal.
Lathander as a Character: DMing the Bringer of the Dawn
While gods making an appearance on the material plane is somewhat less common in 5e than previous editions, there’s no reason you can’t homebrew up your own solutions.
Even just interaction from a god brought on by the prayers of a player character can be enough reason to have some DM solutions ready to go.
Lathander is a pretty straightforward god to bring into your games. The church is very widespread, so it’s easy to get the discussion started about this god long before you bring him to the table in any physical form.
Casual mention of Dawnbringer clerics going on crusades and of temples worshipping the Morninglord are great for immersive storytelling.
The other way the god can start to make an appearance is if one of your PCs worships him.
Life and Light are fairly common domains for characters looking to play stereotypical clerics. This might be especially true for new characters hoping for that classic D&D experience.
If one of your players wants to play a life or light domain cleric and is looking for some guidance in choosing a god, Lathander does make for an excellent suggestion.
Obviously, we went into that a lot more in the PC section above.
So, once Lathander is an established god at your table, how do you show his influence on the world? Well, I’m always a big advocate for tying a god’s worshippers to a campaign.
This is often done for evil gods like Asmodeous or Orcus, but doing this with good-aligned gods seems to get pushed to the wayside in most homebrewed campaigns.
As I mentioned, some sort of crusade is great motivation for a story. Your players can then decide to join or oppose such a crusade, and the lines between what is good and what is moral can become a bit muddled.
One organization that works well for this is the Order of the Aster or the Knights of the Aster. This was a group of fighters and paladins organized by the church of Lathander, so they’re not just a fringe third party.
This group seeks to spread the word of Lathander in a less-than-peaceful way, and while their main targets are worshippers of evil deities, they might end up “thwarting” any who oppose Lathander.
There’s certainly a lot to explore there, and you can call upon actual history and the moral ambiguity of the Holy Crusades in our world’s history to inspire you if you choose to go this path.
However you decide to bring Lathander to prominence in your campaign, you’ll probably want to make him an actual character at some point.
You can do this by bringing in his actual avatar or by bringing in his more ethereal form.
If you’re looking for the distant-god approach, Lathander can appear as a swirl of red and gold light with two eyes at the center.
This aura of energy also might surround a character that is faithful to Lathander, representing the character as a chosen follower of the deity.
This presence can give the character access to new spells, or it might give them extra strength or healing energy. Often, Lathander appearing in any way will cure those he chooses of disease.
You can also bring in the god’s avatar.
Back in AD&D, the avatar had 36 levels in fighter and 25 levels in cleric. Needless to say, the god was strong.
Today’s 5e gods don’t tend to function in the same way, but an avatar of Lathander should be incredibly strong and durable with access to the full spectrum of healing spells.
Lathander’s physical avatar might make use of the Dawnspeaker, a magical mace. In his hands, this item would destroy all undead hit by sunlight within a certain radius.
It would also deal excessive damage to all other evil beings. You might stat this as dealing max damage with a +3 or automatically critting – whatever feels right to you.
On rare occasions, Lathander might lend his favored weapon to a follower of his on a special quest. Based on the item’s description in 2e, these are my stats for the weapon in 5e.
Weapon (Mace), Artifact (requires attunement by a Lawful Good character)
When you hit a fiend or an undead with this magic weapon, that creature takes an extra 4d6 radiant damage.
If the target has 50 hit points or fewer after taking this damage, it must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be destroyed.
On a successful save, the creature becomes frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
While you hold this weapon, it sheds bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet.
Proficiency with a mace allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with it.
Bringing the avatar of a god to a table isn’t something you should do lightly, but luckily, Lathander is one whose interactions will fall mainly into the social pillar of D&D.
Sure, he could be a ridiculously powerful ally (or enemy), but deus ex machina always takes some agency away from the characters.
Instead, Lathander can approach as a deity that has seen the adventurers at work and might request their aid.
There’s some precedence for this in stories of the forgotten realms. In the Eye of the Beholder video game series, Lathander called upon the Heroes of Waterdeep to rid his temple of the Dark God.
Something similar would work perfectly for an interaction with your PCs. You can even use this as an opportunity to have Lathander gift one of them with Dawnspeaker or some other lawful-good magical item or weapon.
No matter how Lathander makes his way to your table, you’re in for some exciting themes of rebirth and holy crusade and an exploration of moral value.
It’s gods like this that certainly get me more involved in a campaign. Knowing that even the deities aren’t perfect is such an exciting avenue for immersion, and it allows players to see themselves in characters.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little lore dive today. Remember, there is always another dawn.
And as always, happy adventuring.