Setting up a server/Debian

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A simple Minetest server can be started in any Debian (Ubuntu, Linux Mint or derivative distribution) that has the minetest package by going to its “Server” tab, however such a game only remains available for the duration of the host's playing session.

This guide is aimed at providing a more permanent, minimal server environment setup without a graphical desktop environment.


Installing Minetest version 5 from Buster Backports

As of August 2019, minetest is available in version 0.4.17 in Debian Buster (Stable), and also in version 5.0.1 in Buster Backports.

The two versions are not compatible, and installing both version on the same system would be tricky. Since most servers probably use the newest versions, and players too, the version from the backports comes as a natural choice.

First, add the Backrpots repositories as explained on Debian Wiki.

Then install the minetest packages you need from it.

# apt install -t buster-backports minetest-server

Manage the server startup

Systemd is the default and currently prefered solution to manage services on Debian.


Since version 0.4.10+repack-3 the Debian minetest-server package automatically creates a system-wide, unprivileged user called Debian-minetest. The home directory of this user is /var/games/minetest-server. You can do all the configuration in /etc/minetest/minetest.conf. All log files are written to /var/log/minetest.

It should already be started. Check whether its running (or why it doesn't start) with

# systemctl status minetest-server

Start the server with

# systemctl start minetest-server

Stop the server with

# systemctl stop minetest-server

You can disable the server on boot with

# systemctl disable minetest-server

You can start multiple servers with different configurations by using systemd's template unit feature.

# systemctl start minetest-server@pvp.service

Provided that you also saved the configuration file for this server in /etc/minetest/pvp.conf, the server will now use this second configuration and log everything to /var/log/minetest/pvp.log. Simply replace pvp after @ with your desired name.


If systemd is not your default init system and you still prefer to use the old sysV-init style configuration, you can use the service command to start or stop your server.

# service minetest-server start


# service minetest-server stop

Configuration of the server

You can find a commented server configuration file on /usr/share/doc/minetest/minetest.conf.example.gz.

 # zcat /usr/share/doc/minetest/minetest.conf.example.gz > /etc/minetest/myservername.conf

Interesting parameters start with the Server / Singleplayer section, you may delete client parameters prior to that.

Install and enable mods

Install a mod

You can install the packages you want from the available mods.

If you need to install mods which aren't packaged yet in Debian (for instance, mobs_animal and mobs_monster), you can add them in the /var/games/minetest-server/.minetest/mods directory (create it if needed).

Enable a mod

You will need to enable them afterwards. Mod activation is not a general server setup, but a world setup.

Once a server is started, it should create world files, and refresh them to add configuration lines with the available mods in the file.

 $ cat /var/games/minetest-server/.minetest/worlds/world/
 creative_mode = false
 auth_backend = sqlite3
 player_backend = sqlite3
 gameid = minetest
 enable_damage = true
 backend = sqlite3
 load_mod_mobs_animal = true
 load_mod_mobs = true
 load_mod_mobs_monster = false

First, stop the server running the world. Then edit this file to enable the mod, just change the value from false to true on the corresponding load_mod_* lines.

Further information