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I'm planning a story arc for my D&D campaign that will heavily involve the elemental plane of air, with Yan-C-Bin being the BBEG at the end.

The name Yan-C-Bin is very strange, and I'm wondering where the name even came from. Most of the big outer-planar creatures in D&D seem to have a real-world equivalent, drawn from various cultural mythologies around the world, but I can't seem to track down anything about Yan-C-Bin or even anything close.

Is there a cultural/mythological callback for Yan-C-Bin, or is Yan-C-Bin just a straight up made up name and character for D&D?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yan-C-Bin should've been the earth archomental; then Smar-T-Reed could be water, Blon-D-Sue could be air, and Birn-E-Jon could be fire. That would've been (ahem) fantastic. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2023 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @From: Yan-C-Bin (first?) appeared in the AD&D 1E Fiend Folio, in 1981. Jiang Zemin would not have been familiar to Americans until he took over Chinese leadership in 1989 (he had political roles before then, but nothing that would have brought him meaningful recognition outside China before 1981). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2023 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger Thanks, just my Warhammer 40k-tuned senses twitching, then. "Mag Uruk Thraka", and so on... \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Feb 22, 2023 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ in Chinese mythology king Yan is the king of death/dead, and in Chinese the name would translate roughly to something like the "gorgeous humble visitor". so maybe he was having fun with the idea? \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Mar 13, 2023 at 1:24

2 Answers 2

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I took the advice of @afroakuma and tracked down Mr. Lewis Pulsipher's twitter and asked him directly about the origins of Yan-C-Bin and this was his reply:

"No recollection, I'm afraid. I have to say the same for all the names. But most likely, I made all the names up from scratch."

So there we have it straight from the source, he just made them up.

Here's a direct link the Twitter thread: twitter thread

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for tracking them down and reporting back! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Mar 9, 2023 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you able to link to the specific tweet? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2023 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like your Twitter account @dm_fiend no longer exists, so neither does the linked tweet. Do you have a link to an archived version, or to Lewis Pulsipher's tweet itself? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 26 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, sorry about that, I deleted my Twitter account after the fascist ruined it and changed the name. Because I don't have an account anymore, I can't even look at Lewis' feed anymore, and I don't have an archive of my old feed either. :/ \$\endgroup\$
    – DMfiend
    Feb 26 at 19:23
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Having had this question myself in the past and checked, exhaustively, every sourcebook printed on the subject of the Princes of Elemental Evil, I've come up with absolutely no referent from which it could have sprung. The creator of the Princes of Elemental Evil, Lewis Pulsipher, made it up wholecloth, just as he made up Olhydra, Imix, Ogremoch, and Cryonax. No mythological/cultural callback to be found.

That said, you don't have to take my word for it, provided you have a Twitter account and are interested in making an inquiry direct to the source.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not entirely whole cloth. "Hydr-" is the Greek root meaning water, and "cryo" meaning cold; "Ogre" is from the Latin Orcus, the lord of the underworld. I don't believe it is a coincidence that these are parts of the names of the princes of Water, Ice, and Earth. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 22, 2023 at 4:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually did exactly what you're suggesting and I tracked down Mr.Pulsipher on Twitter and asked him directly...no response yet (it's only been a day). I feel like you're right though, he just made them up for D&D and there's not really any real-world connection. Still though, it's such a strange name, there must be some kind of story behind it. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMfiend
    Feb 22, 2023 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be clear, I find it plausible that Yan-C-Bin doesn't have cultural or mythological significance, and I certainly am not familiar with any. I think this answer would be greatly improved by simply changing "just as he made up" to "unlike the other cases of". \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 22, 2023 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean, they're still made up; the fact that there are obvious words inspiring Olhydra and Cryonax in no way obviates that fact. In my opinion it just makes them even lazier, but that's neither here nor there. \$\endgroup\$
    – afroakuma
    Feb 24, 2023 at 22:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Malady Imix could be derived from immolate ("to kill or destroy especially by fire"). \$\endgroup\$
    – Purplemur
    Feb 27, 2023 at 20:49

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