SQL Intro

This is only a brief introduction, as it is too difficult to explain everything about SQL in a single page.


Garry's Mod Servers use a "SQLite3" database which is stored in a single file named sv.db. This file is located at garrysmod/sv.db.
SQLite3 is very similar to MySQL/MariaDB, the main difference is that it is a single file that stores the whole database instead of a system of files in a folder.
The temporary files of this database are stored in memory, so it is extremely fast.
Each client and server has their own database file. If you run sql queries on the client it will edit the cl.db instead of the server (sv.db) one.

To read more about SQLite in gmod you can visit the official wiki page at https://wiki.facepunch.com/gmod/sql

Creating structure

SQL databases require a structure for data.
You can imagine it as an excel spreadsheet. One database is one excel file. A table is a sheet (=tab) in excel.
A column in excel (A,B,C,...) is a column in a table, same as with the rows.

In SQL you define the data structure as columns.
The data itself is a row in these columns.

To repeat this:

An example structure:

number: steamid64
text: nickname

This would be "displayed" as:


To now create this as an SQL table you use the following sql statement.
An sql statement is a text that interacts with the database, usually starting with a keyword of what it does (e.g. INSERT, SELECT, UPDATE).

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS nicknames(steamid64 INT, nickname TEXT)

As seen above, to create a table you use CREATE TABLE.
You should always use it with IF NOT EXISTS after it or else you will delete your database everytime you create it (=start the application).
A number is called an INT in sql, which stands for integer. Text is simply called TEXT, and with INT those 2 will probably be the only sql datatypes you are going to need.
To now execute this in gmod lua (executed inside the sqlite3 sv.db) you can use the following lua code:

sql.Query("CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS nicknames(steamid64 INT, nickname TEXT)");

You use the sql.Query function for "querying" the database. You do this for any operation, no matter if creation, insertion or selection.

This query function can return a value. This return value tells you if something went wrong.
If you CREATE or INSERT data it will be false if an error occured and nil if everything went well.
If you SELECT data it will be nil if no data was found and false if an error occured, and it will be "normal data" if everything went well.

If an error happens the function sql.LastError() will return the error text of the sql statement.
An "error example" you can execute in gmod:

local err = sql.Query("CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS nicknames(steamid64 INT, nickname TEXT")
if err == false then

If you run the above code it will print the following to your console:

[ERROR] lua/autorun/server/sv_test.lua:3: incomplete input
  1. error - [C]:-1
   2. unknown - lua/autorun/server/sv_test.lua:3

This is because a ) is missing behind the TEXT in the sql statement.
Warning: It is very important to always check if an error occured in your sql query before continuing!

Inserting data

We now want to insert data into the newly created table (named "nicknames").
You have to insert data in the same order as the table created it.
A sql statement for inserting data:

INSERT INTO nicknames VALUES(1234567890,"peter");

If you only want to insert data into some columns you can write in brackets the columns you want to fill with data like this:

INSERT INTO nicknames(steamid64) VALUES(12345567890);

It is recommended to always insert every value or else the column will be NULL.

As seen in the above examples the steamid64 is without quotation (") and the nickname is. This is because the steamid is a number, and numbers don't require any quotationmarks but text (=string) does.

To execute it in gmod lua we use the sql.Query function again.
We will also check if an error happened during insertion. It is good practice to always check for errors.

local err = sql.Query("INSERT INTO nicknames VALUES(1234567890,'peter')")
if err == false then

Warning: Please look out for the quotation marks (",') in the above example. You can not use the same type of quotation marks for the nickname and sql string, which is why peter is in ' quotation marks and the whole sql statement is in " quotation marks.

Getting data

To get data from our table we use the sql SELECT statement.
You can either get all columns from the table or only specific ones. You can also limit the number of returned rows.

An example of selecting everything in a table (not recommended):

SELECT * FROM nicknames;

If you now run this in lua with error check:

local data = sql.Query("SELECT * FROM nicknames")
if data == false then

The data variable now holds a list of rows returned.
The structure looks as follows:

data[1] = { steamid64=1234567890, nickname="peter"}
data[2] = { steamid64=5467897634, nickname="chris"}
data[3] = ...

As seen above, data is a list of rows that the sql database returned. Each row has indexes (or attributes) of the columns and the value of those is the value that was inside the database.

An simple example to print every nickname saved:

local data = sql.Query("SELECT * FROM nicknames")
if data == false then
if not data then return end --if no data inside table then do nothing
for row,value in ipairs(data) do
    print(value.nickname,"has the steamid64",value.steamid64)

Getting specific data

To now get the data of only one player we add a WHERE clause in the sql SELECT statement.

An sql example that selects only one players nickname:

SELECT * FROM nicknames WHERE steamid64=1234567890;

This lets you select the row of a specific player of the nicknames table.
We get the steamid64 and the nickname from the player with the steamid 1234567890, but in reality we only need the nickname because we know the steamid already.
To only get the nickname we can change the * asterisk in the front to only the column we want:

SELECT nickname FROM nicknames WHERE steamid64=1234567890;

Now we have optimized it to only return the column / data we want.
In gmod lua there is a method for only getting one value named sql.QueryValue. This function only returns the first value found and not a row or list of rows.

An example of using this in lua to get a player's nickname:

local nickname = sql.QueryValue("SELECT nickname FROM nicknames WHERE steamid64=1234567890")
if nickname == false then
if not nickname then
    print("No nickname found")
print("Nickname found:",nickname)

Now we do not have to loop over any rows and can directly access the value.
If no value was found or the value was NULL in the database then we get a nil returned, which we check with if not nickname then.

Getting data based on dynamic input

Now we make it dynamic by adding a player's steamid dynamically to the SQL statement.
In reality we do not hardcode SteamIDs into SQL strings, we create those dynamically based on a player's steamid.

Imagine we have a ply variable and want to get it's nickname.
We would use this (shortened) lua code:

local nickname = sql.QueryValue("SELECT nickname FROM nicknames WHERE steamid64="..ply:SteamID64())

Instead of writing a steamid directly into the code we append the steamid of the player, which will return his nickname from the database if it exists.

This is ok for numbers or strict functions like :SteamID64(), but:

Sanitizing in this context means "making sure that user input is not malicious".
This is quite easily done with the following, very important statement:

Always use sql.SQLStr for string input into a database

The sql.SQLStr(text) function sanitizes input strings so that they are safe to use with databases.
An example of using this to select the steamid of a player from his nickname:

local steamid64 = sql.QueryValue("SELECT steamid64 FROM nicknames WHERE nickname="..sql.SQLStr(ply:Nick()))

As you can see we use the sql.SQLStr function above to insert the player nickname into the sql statement.
Never insert a string/text without using sql.SQLStr into an sql statement!

Example: Saving points

Let's create an example code that saves a player's "points" over gameplay sessions.
For this we save the points inside the sql database and load them when a player joins.

To create a table in the database I recommend to create it after a while, personally I use the InitPostEntity hook to do this.

    local res = sql.Query("CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS player_points(steamid TEXT, points INT)")
    if res == false then

The above code creates the table for our points data when the server starts.
We check for errors while executing this statement with if res == false then. If an error occured we use ErrorNoHaltWithStack() to print an error to console without actually stopping execution. We get the error of the sql execution with sql.LastError().

Next we add the functions for loading a player's points.

function LoadPlayerPoints(ply)
    local points = sql.QueryValue("SELECT points FROM player_points WHERE steamid="..sql.SQLStr(ply:SteamID()))
    if points == false then
    if not points then
        local res = sql.Query("INSERT INTO player_points(steamid,points) VALUES("..sql.SQLStr(ply:SteamID())..",0)")
        if res == false then


The above code calls the LoadPlayerPoints function for every player that joins the server. This function sets the points for a player to 0 and then tries to load their actual points from the database.
If the database returns something without creating errors we set the player's points to that.
If no value and no error was returned then we create the value in the database table. We do this because we only want to update this value later on with the players new points.

The last code is to add points to a player and save those points.

function AddPlayerPoints(ply,amount)

function SavePlayerPoints(ply)
    local res = sql.Query("UPDATE player_points SET points="..ply:GetNW2Int("points").." WHERE steamid="..sql.SQLStr(ply:SteamID()))
    if res == false then

The above code is saving a players points everytime he gains points. This is not a perfect solution for every situation, because if many people get many small points in a short amount of time then it is putting a lot of strain on the database.
A different approach would be saving a players points in regular intervals and if a player disconnects. This way you have less database utilization, which prevents possible lags.


There are a few important performance aspects when using gmod's sqlite database.

Don't write long running statements
If an sql statement runs for a long time then the whole gmod server will be unresponsive until that statement finished.
This means that players will see a red "Disconnect" message in the top right when a statement takes too long to run.

Make sure to not calculate large statistics or select a lot of data at once during gameplay.
If you have to calculate statistics ingame (e.g. leaderboards) do those when e.g. starting the server or during the night when not many players are online.

Never SELECT all data from a table
If you do SELECT * FROM mytable then the lua code will load the whole table into a variable, which takes time.
During this time the server is unresponsive until all of the data is loaded.
This is only acceptible for not-large tables when starting the server, e.g. for loading configuration from the database.