Summer camps create memories and friendships that last a lifetime, but staying engaged with campers during the school year can be a challenge. With the increasing accessibility of online platforms, Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) can be a powerful tool to keep the camp spirit alive and ensure return registrations. Here’s how to use online LARP to enhance camper retention during the school year.

What is Online LARP?

Online LARP is an adaptation of traditional Live Action Role-Playing to virtual platforms (like Zoom). Participants assume characters’ roles and interact in a digital environment, guided by a storyline or set of objectives. While lacking the physical aspect of traditional LARP, online versions offer unique advantages like:

  • Accessibility for some people with disabilities
  • Reaching your geographically dispersed campers
  • Introducing new campers to returning campers before summer begins
  • Requires very little space 
  • Largely weather-proof

Why Use Online LARP for Camp Retention?

  1. Maintain Engagement: LARP is an interactive and fun way to keep campers involved, reminding them of their positive camp experiences.
  2. Strengthen Bonds: Campers reconnect with their friends, fostering lasting relationships and engaged in Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
  3. Promote Continuous Learning: Camps with an educational component can use an online educational LARP, or EduLARP to reinforce and build upon concepts introduced during summer sessions.

Steps to Implement Online LARP for Camp Retention

  1. Set Clear Objectives: Understand your goals. Are you aiming to strengthen community ties, reinforce lessons from camp, or introduce new camp themes for the next year?
  2. Choose the Right Platform: There are several online platforms suitable for LARP, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, and more. Your choice will depend on the complexity of your game and the age group of your participants.
  3. Design an Engaging Storyline: The story should resonate with camp themes or values. For instance, if your camp focuses on science, a LARP session could revolve around solving a fictional scientific mystery.
  4. Schedule Regular Sessions: Consistency is key. Regularly scheduled sessions, be it monthly or quarterly, will give campers something to look forward to and ensure sustained engagement.
  5. Incorporate Feedback: Allow campers to influence the story’s direction or provide feedback on gameplay. This empowers them and ensures the LARP remains relevant to their interests.
  6. Promote and Remind: Use email newsletters, social media, and other channels to keep campers informed about upcoming online LARP events.

Best Practices for a Successful Online LARP Session

  1. Design or Find a System: You can either make your own online LARP system for navigating your adventures, or you can take our free online course which uses the Universal Game System Lite and has documentation on how to run not only an in-person LARP, but also an Online LARP. (Yes, it’s free and no strings attached – we are trying to make LARP more accessible and wide spread)
  2. Moderate: Ensure there’s a skilled moderator or game master to guide the story, resolve conflicts, and keep the game flowing smoothly.
  3. Incorporate Multimedia: Use videos, music, images, backdrops, props, and even dress in a costume or use masks to enhance the virtual environment and make the experience more immersive. Encourage your campers to also use (appropriate) costumes and backdrops.
  4. Safety First: Especially with younger campers, ensure that all online interactions are safe. Set ground rules, use secure platforms, and monitor discussions.
  5. Stay Inclusive: Make sure every camper, regardless of their technological proficiency, can participate. We highly recommend offering tutorials or tech support ahead of sessions.
  6. Follow-Up: After a session, send out a recap, highlight memorable moments, and tease the next adventure to keep the excitement alive.

In the digital age, the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of camp camaraderie. By leveraging online LARP sessions during the school year, camps can maintain and even boost engagement, ensuring campers eagerly return year after year. It’s not just about retention; it’s about enriching the camp experience and making memories that bridge the gap between summers.


Guardian Adventures provide consulting and a free LARP for afterschool programs, summer campsamusement & attraction industries, and more.

Live Action Role Playing, or LARP, is a fun and engaging way to immerse your campers in a world of stories and adventure. Running a LARP at your summer camp can be an exceptional program for increasing camper retention and creating a sense of community among campers.

Campers who participate in LARPing are often more invested in the camp experience, and in our experience, are more likely to return year after year. Here are some of the ways that offering a LARP program can increase camper retention:

  1. Immersive Storytelling

    LARPing provides campers with an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in a fictional world. When you create an engaging storyline and safe but exciting interactions where campers have a sense of agency, there is an increase in the camper’s desire to return year after year to see how the story evolves as well as their own role within it.

  2. Positive Peer Interaction

    LARPing requires teamwork and collaboration, which can promote positive peer interaction. This type of positive interaction can create a sense of belonging and community among your campers, many of whom may not fit the classic summer camp programming based in sports or hiking. Connecting to others who are like them can give them a sense of belonging and elevate the camp experience. These interactions can also be made more effective when the LARP you design is inclusive and accessible. When you take the time to design activities (including LARPs) to be inclusive and accessible, you will attract more campers and people of various lived experiences.

  3. Encourages Creativity and Imagination

    Campers who participate in LARPing are constantly exposed to an activity that requires creativity and imagination – in fact, it’s the common foundation of all LARPs. This can contribute to the overall development of your campers while also giving them an encouraging outlet for trying out new ideas. 

  4. Teaches Problem-Solving Skills

    LARPing requires campers to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to problems. This type of problem-solving can be a valuable skill that your campers can transfer into other areas of their lives, while also having a positive impact on their confidence and self-esteem.

  5. Fosters a Sense of Belonging

    By participating in a shared experience, campers can feel like they are part of a group, which can be especially important for campers who may be shy or introverted. As mentioned above in #2 positive peer interactions add one-on-one connection… but when everyone in your program has a passion for the adventure and their role in it, this sense of belonging and community is greatly enhanced. 

  6. Learning

    Education is always a value-add for any summer camp program. But when education (either STEM or Social Emotional Learning) is integrated into a LARP, the learning becomes exciting and memorable. When an 8 year old needs to learn Newton’s Laws of Physics in order to cast her first level spells as a wizard, she may be inspired to seek out higher level science classes or even a career path in STEM. As well, parents consider education as a high value-add in the camp experience, especially if it can address summertime “Learning Loss”. This makes the parents or guardians (who pay the camp tuition) more likely to consider returning their child to a LARP camp.

  7. Year-Round-Engagement

    You can also run LARPs online during the off-season. Some game systems provide instructions on how to convert your LARP into an online adventure which means you can schedule a few Zoom sessions where campers can see their friends and play their character in a supplemental adventure that encourages them to sign up for the next season right away. It also helps to drop hints during these online adventures that can be useful for when they return to camp.

These are just a few of the ways that a LARP program can increase your camper retention.  Of course, most retention doesn’t just come from the kind of programs you provide… but the quality of the experiences within those programs.  Make certain that your LARP is engaging, safe, accessible, and perhaps educational, and you should notice more campers coming back to your camp year after year.


About:  Guardian Adventures provides free and licensed educational games, adventures, and LARP systems for summer camps, schools, and recreation organizations.

Integrating Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) into a summer camp can be an exciting and engaging way to provide campers with a unique, educational, and immersive experience. LARPing allows campers to physically embody a character and interact with others in a live setting, which can help to build problem-solving techniques, improvisational skills (thinking on your feet), and competency in teamwork.

The first step for integrating LARP into a summer camp is to decide on a theme or setting for the game. This can be based on a fictional world, historical event, or even a real-world scenario. The theme or setting you decide on will provide the foundation for the game and will help to guide the creation of the story, characters, costumes, and props.

Once the theme or setting has been decided on, the next step is to create characters for the campers to play. These characters should be well-rounded and have distinct personalities and abilities. They should also be appropriate for the setting of the game. Providing a character sheet with the character’s background and abilities can be helpful for the campers to better understand and connect with their character, as well as for remembering what their chosen skills are, and how many times they can utilize them.

In order to further the immersion of the experience, campers should be provided with (or have time and resources to make) costumes and props to help them fully embody their characters. These can be as simple or as elaborate as desired, but they should serve to amplify and support the setting of the game.

If the game style involves physical conflict scenarios with play weapons then foam swords and shields or NERF Blasters can be provided for safe interactions. Or if the conflict (which is what makes an adventure a challenge) is only verbal, what real-life or pretend skills can you provide that help the campers navigate the conflict and succeed through the practice of those skills?

The set of game rules and mechanics (how the game works) are also important. Choose a system that is not too complex, making it hard to comprehend, and not so simple as to make it limited and boring. If you are a novice at LARPing, you may choose a simple LARP system to start and then graduate to a more robust LARP system that provides more character, skill, and interaction options.

The final step is to create an interactive scenario, or “quest”, for the campers to participate in. This scenario should provide a clear goal, perhaps one that is in alignment with your camp mission, for the campers to work towards. The scene should also include challenges and obstacles that will require the campers to work together and use their characters’ abilities. Ideally, each scenario requires a diversity of skills so that each camper has the opportunity to “shine” in the moment when they use their special skill to accomplish the goal.  

The scene may also require campers to accrue their skills through the completion of projects based in STEM or other academic topics. The important thing is to make sure that the STEM is directly related to the challenge the campers are facing and not just “tacked on” as an educational lesson. These educational elements add a much higher level of value to the camp program because the campers can learn topics applicable to their studies at school.

It’s also important to have a clear safety protocol in place and to train staff and campers on safety rules before the start of the LARP event. This includes the use of safe weapons and shields, guidelines for physical contact, and even established rules of verbal conflict that keep the interactions from escalating to an “out of game” situation where the campers feel personally attacked.

In addition to the LARP event, there are opportunities to include other activities that tie into the game. This includes workshops on crafts that fit the theme such as archery or fencing lessons, historical reenactment and improv lessons, negotiation and social-emotional exercises, and other activities that will help to further immerse the campers in the LARP while also enriching their lives outside of the game. You can even run online LARPs during the non-summer camp season so as to keep your campers engaged in your camp alongside the friends they made at your camp.

Integrating LARP into a summer camp can be an exciting and engaging way to provide campers with not just an entertaining and exciting activity, but a truly enriching and educational experience. Give it a try with our free LARP game and see how quickly your campers will feel like heroes as they take on the challenge of saving the world.


About:  Guardian Adventures provides free and licensed educational games, adventures, and LARP systems for summer camps, schools, and recreation organizations.

Skip to content