Kimberly Chapman is a roleplayer and a baker. She runs the site Eat the Evidence where you’ll enjoy a mix of ‘edible media’, parenting chat and geek references.
Baking and gaming are both hobbies and as Kimberly’s site says, “Failure is always an option, then eat the evidence” who better to ask about tips, tricks and lessons learnt? Read on for a combination of gaming and baking tips.
How did you get into roleplaying?
I dabbled when I first got into the gifted program at school. Yay for nerdy stereotypes! Unfortunately, that stupid “Mazes and Monsters” movie came out and our school board shut down any at-school RPGing and this was before any of us could drive, so that was that for many years.
I tried to get others interested in university but my circles weren’t nerdy enough so it never stuck. And at the summer camp where I worked, it turned out to be a thing a few guys did to find lonely girls for…um…other activities, and since that wasn’t what I was looking for, that fell flat too.
So really it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s when I played seriously with friends (mostly Palladium Fantasy at the time), and then later with my husband and our friends.
How did you get into baking?
As a female child of my generation, it was pretty much expected that I know the basics of baking. But I got into the serious decorating stuff when I moved to the US in the early 2000s because I had no green card and little else to do. I got a book on basic fondant work and fell in love with the medium, then promptly put the book aside to see how I could push it in non-traditional ways.
What’s your favourite sort of character and why?
I like to play angsty half-orc barbarian females. I like the idea of a young woman who is really, truly ugly but very strong who instead wishes she could be a dainty, pretty princess. She can soak the damage for the whole party, but her rages just make her feel bad after, as if she’s failed her human side.
I also like to play small, high-DEX female rogues. One of my favourite imagined scenarios is to have the itty bitty gal standing alone in an alley and, when some bad guys approach her, have her say, “I don’t appear to be afraid of you in this situation. That should make you afraid of me.” Then have her go acrobatically slice-and-dice on them. Booyeah!
When it comes to baking and edible media what are the tools of the trade? Which pieces of equipment do you recommend and where do you get them?
I actually recommend that most people start with what’s in their kitchen already for the most part. Cake decorating is one of those hobbies with a zillion pricey tools, and if you’re selling cakes some of those tools speed things up assembly-line fashion and make sense. But if you’re just a hobbyist playing around, save your money and don’t buy anything you don’t have an immediate need for and then several other uses for later.
The only exception to that is I do suggest that people get a ball tool. That’s basically a round ball on a stick and they come in various sizes. Most kitchens don’t have a spherical tool like that, and it’s useful for creating figure faces, placing dragees (the edible ball bearings as the Tenth Doctor would say), creating patterns, and more. You can buy that at any cake decorating shop or a craft store with a cake decorating section. It often will come in a set of modelling tools, some of which are potentially useful and some of which never will be. If you can find one on its own with two sides to give you variety in size, that’s best.
What are your top three tips for enjoying a night of roleplaying?
1) Don’t be a dick. Even if your character has dickish qualities, you don’t have to be a jerk to the other players. No tantrums. Shut up once in awhile and let others suggest some ideas. Close the rule book and discuss things like a human being. Nobody cares if you can cite every iteration of a rule from past versions up to now, but if you help make other people’s gaming experience fun and memorable, you’ll be everyone’s favourite player. Oh and this also means that if there are women playing and you’re male, try not being on the make. They’re not there to be your T&A for the night: they’re there to relax and play the game just like you are.
2) Be prepared, but be flexible. Have an idea of what you want to play so you’re not the person pondering possibilities for hours, but don’t come to the session demanding to be a specific type of character or else you will be disappointed if you don’t fit into the planned storyline. If it’s a continuing game, have an idea of the direction you’d like to take your character but again, be prepared to change that and adapt to the needs of the party and the world.
3) If you’re the GM, read the room. Maybe you spent hours preparing that lengthy backstory, but if everyone’s getting sleepy or checking their social media on their phones while you’re reading off the begats of your world’s carefully constructed royal network, you’ve lost the game. If the players are constantly running away from your quests, you need to make them more enticing or back off the scare tactics. Understand that while it is your story, you’re enlisting the players as active participants, not a passive audience. And if one player is being a dick and wrecking it for the others, do what you can to clamp down on that, even if it means outright telling that player to be quiet and then turning to one of the softer-spoken players and asking, “What do you think?”
What are your top three tips for making and baking a good cake?
1) Read the recipe several times over to make sure you have the ingredients and so you understand how they each fit in, especially if you intend to do any substituting. And only do substituting if you’re experienced or can find direct advice for those specific ingredients online. Many a baked good has been ruined because someone thought they could add extra butter instead of using buttermilk, or confused sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk.
2) Unless otherwise specified, have all ingredients at room temperature before you start to mix. Take eggs out of the fridge early and set them to the side. Butter obviously softens when warm, which is why most recipes specify to have butter at room temperature so it can be mixed, but if you then pour cold milk into a mixture with warm butter, the butter will solidify into lumps.
3) Measure carefully, and use weight instead of volume where possible, particularly for ingredients like flour. There’s a huge difference between a packed cup of flour versus a sifted cup. Alton Brown sometimes only gives weight values for flour and similar ingredients for this reason. In fact, an overriding tip for all cooking is to go watch every episode of Good Eats you can. Brown gives you the science behind all of these baking rules so you know why to follow them and how to break them when you need to.
And I’m going to give you a fourth: make sure your baking powder is fresh. Baking powder is chemistry in very slow action that gets sped up when it meets liquid, but is slowly degrading in your pantry. One of the most common questions we get in our local cake club is what to do about sunken cakes or cupcakes, and the answer is almost always that the baker is using baking powder that’s been sitting in their pantry for years. If you don’t remember when you bought it and/or it wasn’t recent, chuck it and get more.
I know you play a spot of D&D but have you played with any other systems? If so; which is your favourite and why?
My early experience was all Palladium Fantasy and I quite liked it. I’ve also played GURPS, Hero, Traveller, Earthdawn, FUDGE, and Paranoia. Paranoia was one of my favourites because it was with my husband and our two closest gamer friends, so it worked really well. You can’t play Paranoia with twinks, though, so you have to have the right group going in. I’m most comfortable with D&D 3.5 because that’s what I played the most and understood the best, so now Pathfinder is reasonably comfortable too. We make 3.5 references in our daily lives, such as noticing that our older daughter must have a high INT but low WIS because she could do algebra in primary school but can’t make a spot check to save her life.
I also liked that 3.5 had enough stats and figures to provide a basis for reasonable control (compared to FUDGE, say, which is nice in being freeform but can also make it difficult to play consistently), but isn’t a dry evening of reading tables like Traveller character creation. Plus I strongly prefer fantasy to scifi anyway. Guns are so boring. Knives are fun. Muahahahaha.
Icing and battles with fondant seem to be a big part of producing a visually stunning creation. What are your top three tips?
1) Know your medium. That means practice. Never, ever try a new technique or medium on a cake due tomorrow. It’s awesome to try new things but give it a whirl on a test piece beforehand.
2) Physics doesn’t care if you succeed or not. Recognize and obey the laws of physics like they’re your master, because they are. Cake is squishy and breaks easily. Make sure you’ve properly engineered all of your supports and structures in advance.
3) What’s the story? The most memorable cakes present some kind of narrative. There are lots of pretty cakes, but especially when it comes to geeky cakes there should be a story. Figures should appear dynamic, frozen in the middle of doing something, not just sitting there smiling blankly into space. Tiers should work together to advance the narrative. Elements should have a reason for being there. Don’t just stick Serenity on a cake because you liked Firefly: make the whole cake speak to the show. A tier with a browncoat covering juxtaposed with a tier that looks like it’s covered in the rich golds and velvets of a courtesan could be very striking and will be highly meaningful to the fan who receives the cake.
What three things do you want your DM/GM to get right in any campaign?
1) Sex. Okay, it’s funny in the Dead Alewives bit when the guy keeps saying if there are any girls there, he wants to “do them”, because that’s making fun of that type of player. But it’s not fun for mature players – women or men – to play a game where overuse of sexuality makes the whole thing tawdry. Worse: never, ever use rape in a game unless it’s clearly a very bad thing, happens off-screen, and you know for 100% sure it’s not triggering for any of your players. Best just to avoid it. A good DM keeps all sexual content to a minimum.
2) Match the game requirements to the game type. If it’s a dungeon crawl, don’t make players memorize names and dates as if it’s a political intrigue. If it is a political intrigue, don’t expect players to have characters that are kitted out for a fight.
3) Pacing is important. If you’re going to have a month of travel and nothing’s going to happen most nights, don’t make them set a watch order each time. Skip ahead. Or if the journey is the important part, put enough in there to keep it interesting.
My partner is lactose intolerant and that means milk and other dairy products are not her friends. Do you have any insight or suggestions for lactose free baking?
Meep, I actually don’t, sorry! In my social circles people often want gluten free, nut free, low sugar, or vegan. It actually is impossible these days to bring a cake to an event and have everyone able to partake. Since I donate cakes instead of selling, I go for the basics each time and just label it accordingly so those with dietary sensitivities can avoid it if necessary. Gluten is really important to being able to make cakes tall. Eggs hold batters together. Real buttercream tastes better and handles differently than artificial types of frosting. Each of these things can be replaced but the more substitutions you make, the more allowances you have to make for the shape, size, and structure of the final product.
I’m diabetic myself but I don’t even bother making low-carb cakes. I just don’t eat them very often. I do tweak recipes for muffins and other non-cake baked goods to up the protein, lower the carbs, and otherwise make them healthier for diabetics, but I’m afraid that often means increasing dairy so I can’t be much help for the lactose intolerant.