Main > Escapist Interviews > Meghan Gardner of Wizards & Warriors

An Interview with Meghan Gardner of Wizards & Warriors

Meghan Gardner is the founder and CEO of Guard Up! Inc. and Wizards & Warriors™ Camps.  Her job is one that many of us would consider the perfect one - creating plots, props, and costumes for LARP adventures for young people.

Guard Up! Inc. is based out of Burlington, MA and Wizards & Warriors™ Overnight and Quest Camps are currently operating out of Charlton, MA.

Meghan took some time out of her schedule to answer a few questions about her camps, the effort that goes into them, the challenges that must be met, and where you can sign up.

For the benefit of those who have never heard of them, explain what Guard Up! Inc. and Wizards & Warriors are all about. 

Guard Up! Inc. is the largest swordsmanship training facility in North America.  We serve over 1,000 sword and roleplaying enthusiasts each year.  We offer training in a variety of sword styles including the sport of Foil Fencing, Kendo, Iaido, German Longsword, Italian Rapier and much more.  Our flagship program is our proprietary Points & Powers™ games class which combines the fun and educational aspects of roleplaying with a non-repeating plot line where kids get to be heroes in their own story.  We also offer Birthday Parties, Special Events and our new After School Program with transportation in our “Hero Van” from schools to our location.

Wizards & Warriors™ is a subsidiary of Guard Up Inc. and is the name of our Summer Camp programs… our Day Camp, Overnight Camp and our new Quest Camp which transports kids from Eastern Massachusetts to our Overnight Camp in Central Massachusetts and back each day.  Wizards & Warriors™ Camps uses the Points & Powers™ gaming system so that kids can traverse the different camps, classes, After School Program and special events with ease.

What inspired the Wizards & Warriors summer program? 

The original inspiration came when I attended my first LARP, witnessed the exciting activities and started asking around why this wasn’t being done for kids.  No one had an answer that applied to my experience.  So I hired some excellent LARPers who loved working with kids and we started our own game system for kids called Points & Powers™.  We have been running these weekly classes and monthly events for kids since 2001. 

In 2002, we started our Day Camp (held in Burlington, MA) to meet the demand for a summer activity that incorporated roleplaying and the educational aspects it involves such as teamwork, creative problem solving, leadership, negotiation skills and more. 

Two years ago, we started an Overnight Camp (held in Charlton, MA) for kids and teens which was a huge success.  As of the end of September, we are three-quarters sold out for next summer’s Overnight Camp.  As such, we added a third type of camp this year called Quest Camp
where we transport the campers from central locations in Massachusetts to the Overnight Camp and then back home each evening.

You have a school break program as well. Can you tell us more about it? 

Our School Break Adventure is essentially the same as our Summer Camp but held during Winter and Spring Break.  In the past, we only offered Day Adventures for ages 6-10 and 11-15.  However, this year, we are testing a 
Quest Camp Spring Break for ages 11 and up.

How many kids do you usually get at each program? 

We can total up to 90 kids for Overnight Camp, 120 kids for Quest Camp and 240 kids for our Day Camps.  We just moved to a new 7200 square foot facility in Burlington, MA which will allow for more expansion with our Day Camps as the demand last summer often reached our space capacity.

How much preparation time is involved in these programs? 

Since we need to have 8 weeks of ongoing plot for each Day Camp at 6 hours a day and 2 weeks of Overnight Camp at 12 hours a day, we spend a great deal of time and salary on writing plots, building props, creating costumes, etc.  

It’s important to note that NONE of our plots repeat and that every event picks up where it left off – helping to create continuity.  As well, we have weekly Points & Powers™ classes and monthly events held at our facilities… these classes and event also require plot writing and prop construction.

Being paid to write plot and make props is one of the biggest perks in working for our company.  The greatest payment, however, is the look on the face of the kids when they experience what we have created for them.  We have a saying here that once you start LARPing with kids as an NPC, you will likely never want to LARP with adults again.  Kids are extremely proactive, they suspend disbelief immediately, they never get jaded, they write excellent fan fiction about our NPCs, they adore our staff and they appreciate what we do for them like no one else we have ever entertained.

Do you have a specific storyline that you adhere to, or is it more freeform?  

We have an overarching ethos and each event has a basic plot line with various dynamics worked out.  However, as all LARP directors know, the plot never survives first contact intact.  We have staff meetings every morning and night to rewrite as necessary.  A lot of our adjustments actually come from the kids providing us with ideas that are better than our own!

There have been some theories that the game industry usually thrives during a slow economy. Has the economy affected attendance at all?  

The word is that some summer camps had a hard season this year.  However, we are so niche that we are somewhat immune from the influence of the economy.  We know our demographic very well and target it surgically with our materials.  In fact, both our Day Camp and our Overnight Camp grew 30% this year.  The only difference we noticed is a small increase in the number of families who applied for financial aid this year.  We do not turn away campers because they cannot afford our camps.  We have worked out a number of creative options to help kids experience our adventures within their means.

I'm sure I join a lot of people reading this when I ask the most important question of all - "Where do I sign up?"

We are always on the lookout for new staff for our camps and even for year round employment.  We are due to franchise in 3 years and we promote from within. 

Far more important to us than LARPing experience or swordsmanship expertise is a passion for working with kids.  Our best staff live for those smiles and cheers while having a constant eye on safety.  We also have management positions opening up in marketing, sales and finance.  Please visit for more information or to apply.

What do you find are your biggest challenges with organizing and running Wizards and Warriors™ Camp?

Our biggest challenge is finding qualified staff.  Thankfully, one of our easiest tasks is keeping them.  However, we get many applications from LARPers or sword enthusiasts who lack experience in working with kids.  We would rather have staff who have experience with (and a passion for) working with kids and then teach these staff how to roleplay than hire a top notch roleplayer who prefers working with adults

Our staff retention is outstanding.  The staff who qualify and who meet our standards are invited to return each year.  Quite a few of our part time and salaried staff at our facility actually came from our Overnight or Day Camp.  Once we find an employee with initiative, reliability, and strong business skills, we try not to let them slip through our grasp.  More than one camp counselor has quit their “normal job” to come work year round for us.  We are constantly hiring because of our growth.  But we can only grow as fast as our staff base grows.  And we refuse to compromise on quality – not to mention that our current staff would never allow it.  So this is our biggest challenge.

You mentioned going into franchise. Are there any particular areas you're targeting for franchises, or any that you would like to see?

We are expecting to franchise our facility model (Guard Up!) first.  The facility is a year round operations center which runs our Weekly Classes, Birthday Parties, Special Events,  and Wizards & Warriors™ Summer Day Camp and After School Program.  Each of these programs is based on the same proprietary game system called Points & Powers™ which is the foundation of the overnight camp.  At a later time, we may consider also franchising the Overnight Camp so that we may offer the same style of camp in various locations for our avid campers who like to travel.

 We are targeting locations that fit our demographic model and franchisees who have experience managing a business (and employees) as well as the capital necessary to purchase the franchise as well as cover start up expenses.   All prospective franchise owners would first have to graduate an intensive residential training course that would expose them to all aspects of the business first hand.  We are very strict about our quality standards as can be seen in examples as simple as our instructor training program which requires certification in CPR, First Aid, Positive Coaching Methodology, Safety and Risk Assessment, Classroom Management, and much more.  As well, all of our staff go through an intensive criminal background check.  We take the safety of our customers and training of our staff very seriously.