Midnight Magic

In 1987, we made radio history in Norway with the show “Midnight Magic“. It was the first role-playing program on the air and the only program that had a thriving black marked for recordings where certain programs were sold for as much as NOK 400 (USD 100 today). Stein Halvorsen and I had great fun running the program for 3 years.

The format was simple and effective: Each program had a certain theme and a specific goal to reach within a 10-minute play. An introduction was played at the start of the program to give the listeners the background to the evening show. This could range from rescuing a fair maiden from the clutches of an evil dragon to disarming a nuclear warhead before the city was blown to dust. Four players were picked out of the 100 or so calling in to participate. Each player got to pick a few items to help them on the quest. And then the adventure begun.

One of us (me or Stein) was the Game Master telling the participant what he or she saw while the other played each encounter along the way. They could meet the troll under the bridge, the goblin in the woods, the pireate on the ship, the alien in the hangar, etc. Spontaneous acting on the air.

Having released the complete Amar RPG, I thought my next project would be releasing all the recovered Midnight Magic recordings. But alas, SAJ has kept the Midnight Magic site going and I could sit back and relax, write this blog post and simply point to the great Midnight Magic archive.

Ah, the memories 🙂

The cover of the original Mega Role-Playing System (Fantasy Edition) released in the UK by Bent Brakas an me the same year as Midnight Magic started airing).

The cover of the original Mega Role-Playing System (Fantasy Edition) released in the UK by Bent Brakas an me the same year as Midnight Magic started airing.

Amar Role-Playing Game: Complete system online at d6gaming.org

Some have wondered what I have been up to the past few weeks. The answer is seen over at d6gaming.org.

It has been a massive undertaking to get the whole of the Amar RPG online – rule system, information on the Kingdom of Amar, world mythology and more.


The whole system is now Open Source and put on a wiki so that anyone can pitch in to improve or add to the system or the world.

We welcome anyone to contribute new skills, spells, potions, rituals, magical items or any other neat and worthwhile additions.

And we welcome every nitpicking language enthusiast to correct errors in the text.

There is also a good collection of graphics included that any Game Master of any RPG system can freely use.

Go adventure!


Code is up

… on Github.


Got around to putting my most useful programming projects up on Github.com. You can now easily get the newst versions, repost bugs, read the source code and fork the code to make your own version.

The projects that are up so far are:

  • npcg – the random encounters and NPC generator for the AMAR RPG
  • hyperlist.vim – the VIM plugin to easily and effectively manage HyperListS
  • hypergraph – the tool to make graphical representations of HyperListS
  • mailfetch – collect mail from different imap accounts, filter and store locally
  • imaptools – Client-side tools for imap mail
  • pc41 – Facilitating serial/USB connection to an HP-41 calculator

The next project up will probably be my collection of HP-41 programs found on this site.

Update (2015-08-28): I have now put all my relevant HP-41 related programs up on my Github page. The pages and links on this site is now updated to point to my Github projects.

Random encounters and NPC generation for AMAR

It’s been liberating to do some coding lately. I finally got around to update my Non-Player Character (NPC) generation program (npcg) for the Amar Role-Playing Game. I have added a major feature – the ability to generate random encounters for the game. I also improved the generating of human NPCs and fixed several bugs. The online version of the program went south after Ruby (the programming language) was updated to version 1.9 as the templating engine I used – Amrita – stopped working. The nerd in me woke up and rose to the occasion. After two weeks of Ruby coding and a major overhaul, I am proud to present the new online version of NPCG 🙂

If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t be too shy to speak up.

The Kingdom of Amar

The Kingdom of Amar

Planning: Trading predictability for intelligence

I spent hours meticulously drawing an old castle, three levels of floor plans and carefully populating every room with Orcs, Trolls, Undeads and treasure. But even more hours was invested in planning how the players would approach the castle with their Role-Playing characters. The front doors would be unlocked and the characters would discover that, sneak inside, engage in a small fight with two filthy Orcs playing dice instead of guarding the castle, commence to the guard room, find a treasure, get surprised by a lutenant Orc walking into the room, etc. The plan was a masterpiece, but upon reaching the castle, I was taken completely off guard. They walked around to the back side, got out a grappling hook and climbed in through a small kitchen window on the second floor and… completely wrecked my plan! Dang! I hated unpredictable players.


The purpose of planning is to increase predictability. Regardless of the name and the scope – strategy, plan, tactic, game-plan – the purpose is to avoid unpredictability. With the knowledge of Now, one seeks to make decisions into the future. The aim is to focus effort and to limit dispersement.

Sounds all good, perhaps. But there is a flip-side to this coin. When one focuses, one also limits and excludes.


In opting for predictability, you trade in intelligence, creativity and agility. By limiting future choices, you limit improvisation and potential genius. This is why most creative geniuses prefer not to work in large corporations or set structures, but rather in lean and mean startups or prefer to work on their own.

What you gain in focus and stability and predictability in the short run, you lose in attainment of long-term valuable skills.

To quote Ole Wiik, “one must practice what one wants to be good at”. As you focus your training in one area, you become less adept in other areas. Planning makes you better at planning. But it makes you less adept at improvising. By avoiding the unpredictable, you will never get good at tackling the unpredictable. Your mental dexterity will suffer proportionately with your increasing planning skills.

Another factor to consider is that decisions are always sharpest with the best and up-to-date data readily at hand. Thus, any decision made by planning, decisions into the future can never be potentially as good as a decision made in the Here and Now with fresh data and input. Limiting mental dexterity by planning and adding some blinders will make you less sharp mentally. Planning adds preferences, it adds filter that makes fresh input looks dimmer while you become dumber. In an interview with Chess.com, Magnus Carlsen said: “Having preferences means having weaknesses.”


Planning is a tool, a crutch. It enforces a view of the future based on today’s data. It stimulates preconceived ideas, adds a filter for new data, tend to help you avoid unpredictability and helps you never get good at tackling surprises. Tools and crutches are needed if you cannot cope with a situation without them. But right there it should make the alarm bells go off. Instead of getting addicted to the tool of planning, how about starting to practice tackling the unpredictable? Scary shit. I know. But it does add spice to life and skills to you.



Magic Beat – ending with Midnight Magic

A few weeks ago, Stein Halvorsen and I was invited to the Radio Show Magic Beat’s last airing – on June 28th. It would mark the end of a 6 year long era of the Spacesynth and Italo Disco music show on Radio Nova (Oslo, Norway). Pål Hverven was inspired by Midnight Magic, the show that Stein and I ran from 1987-1990. While our show featured role-playing on the air, Pål took the typical music we played and started the music show Magic Beat almost two decades later.


To end off Magic Beat with style, he invited us to do a full two hour Midnight Magic as part of his last three hours on the air. And in true Midnight Magic style, albeit somewhat rusty after our 23 years vacation off the air, we winged it and had a blast killing off several callers as they struggled to save the Earth. The theme of this show was taken from “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” where each player calling in to the show had to save the Earth from extinction in a very short time. They faced a variety of dangers as the tried to reach the Council of Elders and convince them not to remove our planet to make way for a new intergalactic highway. But alas, none were successful, and Magic Beat truly did go out with a bang 🙂


In the middle of the show, we were thrown out of the studio as the fire alarm went off. So, expect some very different music during the show as the automatic system took care of the listeners as we were out on the street.


The show is in Norwegian, but if you can’t understand a word of what we’re saying, there is still great music to be heard. Enjoy 🙂

The last Magic Beat Radio Show – 3 hours with the last two hours featuring Midnight Magic

Fritz, Nosmo King, Stein, me and Pål

Fritz, Nosmo King, Stein, me and Pål

I should add that the crew was really fun to work with. Pål is a warm and truly nice guy. And I had the pleasure to also meet Fritz and Nosmo King.

Skills and arrogance

Could you explain what ‘Knot Theories in N-dimensional space’ is?“, I asked while we walked down the stairs to the ground floor and down the long corridor to the soda vending machine. The Chemistry Department at Oslo University was the venue for the weekly meeting in the role-playing association. It wasn’t much fun to have John Rognes as one of the players in my role-playing world. He was far above anyone I’ve known when it came to problem solving and getting the player characters out of a tight spot. It seemed to passify the other players. But that night I at least got to pick his brains about the passion that brought him mathematical fame. At age 18, he had won prizes in several European countries for his theories that only a handful of people would understand. He was a mathematical genius at the age of three and excelled in math and natural sciences since.

Sure“, he said, “It’s easy“. He then went on to explain his theories in less than 10 minutes with a simplicity that even my grandmother could follow. I was stunned. I still am. And on top of his obvious genius, he was a fun and social guy. And bereft of arrogance.

I sometimes wonder why Brendan doesn’t display any arrogance. He has a remarkable background with amazing stories from Northern Ireland, plays golf like a pro, can easily make a living as a street entertainer with juggling and magic, competed in the World Championships in Foosball, beats the crap out of me at the pool or snooker table, is the most excellent instructor I’ve met, runs half marathons… etc. Everything the guy touches becomes a product. And he is a social and fun guy to be around.

Maybe the lack of arrogance is because Brendan doesn’t need to prove anything. Just like John. And so many other guys with great skills who are just confident at what they do. Not looking confident and having to prove it, but just being confident.

Feel free to ask


When the traffic gets high, when posts get more than 500 or even a 1000 comments, I am bound to miss questions from my readers.

I want to answer your questions, and to ensure you are not left without an answer, I propose you ask any questions you may have to me as comments to this blog post.

Just add your question as a comment here and I will get back to you with an answer. Ask anything – from my views on life, IT, Scientology, my favorite HP calculator, music, art, preferences in any part of life or whatever else you may have on your mind. Do not hold back. I am not shy.

This post is not an arena for long discussions – or I may again miss some questions buried in long threads. Interesting topics may instead earn separate blog posts.

A substitute dice for role-playing games

You’re on a comping trip with some friends and decides to throw a role-playing game session. But alas, you have no dice 😦

No worries; Here’s how to throw the dice anyway, using the “Human Dice”:

One person (the Games Master) thinks of a number from 1-6. This number represents a dice throw of “6”, the “Actual 6”. The other person calls out a number from 1-6, the “Dice Throw”. This number is compared to the Actual 6 like this: If the Dice Throw is equal to the Actual 6, then the throw is a 6. If it is 1 below, it is a 5 etc. It goes in a circle so that if the Games Master thinks of a 2 as the Actual 6, and the player calls out a 5, then this is actually a 3 (2 is a 6, 1 is a 5, 6 is a 4 and 5 is a 3). Simple.

If there is doubt about the sincerity of the Games Master, or if he wants to remove all such doubt, he writes down the Actual 6 before the player calls out the dice throw.

Now you can play Amar anywhere, without any accessories, like with your kids when they go to bed – a bed time story on steroids 🙂