LARP Summer Camp: Fun for Wizards and Zombies!

Larp Summer Camp Heroes
These kids, are heroes!

Did you ever have the pleasure (or horror…)of attending summer camp as a kid? I never did, but had my parents came to me and said, “We have two options for you this summer: Option 1 is a summer spent at Camp Kom-pow-bored where you will kayak, meet cool new friends and swim in the lake. Option 2 is a summer spent battling orcs, questing through dangerous territories and hitting your peers with foam weapons.” First, I would have fallen over from shock that the latter option even existed. Then, I would have done back-flips of happiness to have the chance to go to a LARP summer camp. I have to admit that I had never heard of larping as a kid, but just the sound of it would have had me ecstatic. I think we can all agree that a LARP camp is better than any other summer camp (though Space Camp would give it a run for it’s money, but that’s another blog post…)

Today we have the distinct pleasure of presenting our interview with Meghan Gardner the Director of Guard Up! She is responsible for overseeing two camps at Guard Up! Wizards and Warriors and Nerf Zombie Camp. These two camps are LARP camps that are designed to not only give students a great summer of memories, but also instill great virtues that will last a lifetime. Meghan is doing great things for these students as well as larping.

Thanks for taking the time to allow us to interview you. What you are doing with these summer camps is really awesome, and obviously we really think that there is a lot to get out of larping as far as growing as a person, maturing socially and learning life lessons.

How did you end up starting summer camps centered around larping?

Larp Kids Battle
More fun than kumbaya.
Meghan Gardner:

I showed up at my first larp back in the late 1990’s in Massachusetts – ironically, it was located at the exact same camp in Westford where our own summer camp is now running – and I looked around at all of the action, wondering why this wasn’t being done for kids. As a parent, I saw the opportunity for larping to be used as an educational tool for kids and teens.

So I hired a larper who had experience working with youth and I put him in charge of developing a simple larp program to run as weekly classes at my recreation facility. Over the span of years, we refined the program into a proprietary system and it continued to grow. Eventually, it outgrew all of our other youth programs. Not long after, we started a day camp which eventually expanded into an overnight camp.

Today, our Summer Camp draws kids from all over the world, including England, Australia, Chile, Switzerland, and many other countries.

What does a typical day at the camp look like?

larp skeleton mage
Nothing is typical when this guy is around.
Meghan Gardner:

Well, we really don’t have a “typical day” because our larp is a truly dynamic environment in that we have a basic plot line that is presented to the kids and then we react to their decisions and present them with new situations each day. Essentially, we write the next day’s plot the previous night… and use our creative staff to come up with the costuming and props necessary for the next day’s adventures.

Having said that, we do have some standard activities such as Potion Making (which is where the kids learn about Chemistry while making potions to help them within the game), Library Sessions (where philosophy, literature, and history are discussed as it applies to the plot), Armor Making (where kids learn how to make chain mail and leather armor pieces), and even the Summer Camp basic activity of Swim Time… but even here, the kids may interact with creatures and characters related to the ethos of the lake.

What’s the average student like that attends your camp? (age, demographc)

larp fire element
Fire element deciphering hieroglyphics.
Meghan Gardner:

We actually run two different camps: Wizards & Warriors Camp and NERF Zombie Camp. In Wizards & Warriors Camp, the setting is medieval fantasy where the kids use foam swords and spells. In the NERF Zombie Camp, the setting is a dystopian post-apocalyptic setting where the kids use NERF Blasters and technology.

The two camps can draw slightly different demographics. At Wizards & Warriors Camp, we often get kids who love medieval fantasy and are into roleplaying games like World of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons. The NERF Zombie Camp draws kids who are into a more tactical experience like First Person Shooter games and NERF Wars.

We have day camps for ages 6-9 and day as well as overnight camps for ages 10-15. We also have a very intense Counselor-In-Training program for ages 16-19 which is called “Monster Camp”. At Monster Camp, teens learn how to design plots and sets, assemble costumes and makeup, entertain and manage groups of kids with an eye towards safety, and other important skill sets necessary for being a Counselor.

Is it super easy to get camp counselors for a larping camp?

Wake up, fight zombies! Good day.
Meghan Gardner:

Actually, it is something of a challenge. We don’t target Larpers specifically for our Counselors. We target teachers and Masters of Education college students. This is because our summer camp is based on using larp as an educational tool. The teachers and students we recruit are often excited about the opportunity to use such a creative environment to teach. Since our characters and creatures must originate from real world mythology, literature, or history – and not just our imagination – having teachers on staff with expertise in these areas is very useful. Also, teachers already have plenty of experience (and a passion for) working with kids. We hire professionals – so our standards are pretty high.

What are some of the hopes for campers leaving your program?

Meghan Gardner:

Our hope is to provide our campers with an exciting summer of adventure… and to have them learn more than they realized because they were having so much fun. We want our campers to grow as individuals and become well rounded, confident, life-long learners.

Any favorite stories of campers?

larp summer camp
They're ready for the zombie hoards!
Meghan Gardner:

Our camp has years of exceptional stories where campers experience profound moments of personal growth. One that stands out in my mind is when a camper’s character had died in battle and had to go to Death. Death requires that you recount your deeds and proclaim why your character should be returned to life. This one quiet, young man was involved in a long battle and it was his fifth time visiting Death in about 30 minutes. He was exasperated and had nothing to say to defend his deeds.

I was playing Death at the time and required him to stand at my side as a silent ghost. When the battle was over, the campers assembled to leave and noticed that one of their own was standing silently by Death. The young man had, until then, not felt as if he really “fit in” with the other campers and was often apart from the group. But the other campers still noticed him and would not leave. They approached me and asked me why he was not being returned to life. As Death, I explained that he had not provided reasons for me to return him. The campers were distraught because this meant the young man would “give up the ghost” and have to create a new character.

The campers asked what they could do. I told them that they must each, in turn, give me a unique reason to return this hero to the land of the living. So as the young man stood by my side in silence, he listened to 15 kids defend his deeds and speak highly of his character. They spoke of actions that he did not know they had witnessed. It was an amazing moment as it dawned on him that he really was part of this group and that they believed in him.

In the end, each camper offered to give up Skill Tokens (which are similar to Experience Points in other games) from their own character, in order to convince Death to return their fellow hero to life. Their negotiations were successful. But more importantly, this young man had discovered he was a part of something larger than himself, and he spent the rest of the camp surrounded by his new friends.

What are the facilities like?

larp nerf gun
Nerf gun > fishing pole
Meghan Gardner:

We have two locations: A Day Camp in Burlington, MA which is in a 7500 square foot, climate controlled facility; and an Extended Day Camp and Overnight Camp in Westford, MA which is located on almost 300 acres of gorgeous woodland trails and a private lake. We have cabins, platform expedition tents, a cafeteria, a module building, logistics center, and a medical center. We also have a private beach, a commons/battle field and acres of trails.

Any last thoughts?

Meghan Gardner:

We are very excited about the future of our company and our larp-type events, classes, and camps. We continue to grow and refine our product while we reach a wider market. This is because parents are realizing the value of roleplaying as an entertaining and educational method. As such, we are in the process of licensing our programs which will allow recreation centers, schools and other groups to run programs which have a proven track record and are backed by over a decade of research and development. One day, we hope to have facilities located all over the country running our programs and helping kids and teens discover the adventure of learning and the reward of personal growth.

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7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. GuardUp April 11, 2012 Subscriber

    Hey – Just a quick “Thank you!” to Jordan for an excellent article… and for all of you very cool people who are sharing this on facebook, twitter, Google+, Reddit and more! You rock!

  2. Pingback: Wizards and Warriors Larp Summer Camp Video

  3. Nathan September 7, 2013 Subscriber

    how much will this camp cost

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