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lib_player_heads is a mcfunction library that allows other data packs to easily register player heads to a central system, which enables minecraft:player_head items to keep their item NBT (the contents of Item.tag) even after being placed down and mined.

How to use

When a minecraft:player_head is placed (and subsequently broken), it retains two pieces of information: The texture (SkullOwner.Properties.textures[0].Value), and the name (SkullOwner.Name). lib_player_heads utilizes these two pieces of information to identify and restore minecraft:player_head items to the state they were in before being placed.

Importantly, lib_player_heads restores the player head to a fixed NBT state, i.e. the data must be constant and can not contain any dynamic values1. That means you can not store any useful information (in the information theory sense) on the player head and have it restored by this library. Exemplary uses for this library are, but are not limited to:

  • restoring item names and lore on custom items
  • restoring identifying information on custom items, e.g. setting gm4_zauber_cauldrons:{item:'crystal'}

If multiple data packs utilizing this library are installed, player heads of all data packs will still be restored even after uninstalling all but one data pack containing this library.

Player Head Identification

This library allows for identification by name (recommended, takes priority if a name exists!) or by texture. Which method is used depends on the data present on the placed and broken (to-be-restored) player head. If a name is present, the name method is used, otherwise the texture is used.

Hence, if you are adapting an existing data pack to use this library you will have to check your players skulls and

  • modify the names to be unique per custom item if all of your skulls currently use the same name
  • stick with no name, or introduce a unique name per custom item if your skulls currently have no name

The unique name should be derived from the id tag (discussed in the following section), but for user readability if they pick the item up too fast, it should include a string like [Drop to Fix Item] before the name-spaced ID.

Player Head Register

In order to restore a player head, the head must be registered in the head register. Adding a head to the register can be done via the following commands:

execute unless data storage gm4_player_heads:register heads[{id:'NAMESPACED_IDENTIFIER_FOR_SKULL'}] run data modify storage gm4_player_heads:register heads append value {id:'NAMESPACED_IDENTIFIER_FOR_SKULL',value:'TEXTURE_DATA',name:'UNIQUE_SKULL_OWNER_NAME',item:{<ITEM NBT>}}

It is recommended to do these calls upon reload in case the data is somehow removed, but otherwise the data will generally persist forever.

  • id:'NAMESPACED_IDENTIFIER_FOR_SKULL' is used internally by the library to identify register entries. It should be descriptive and namespaced; versioning is recommended2, e.g. gm4_zauber_cauldrons:crystal/instant_damage/v0.
  • name:'UNIQUE_SKULL_OWNER_NAME' is a unique name stored in the player head's SkullOwner.Name tag and should consist of its id as well as a user-facing prefix to tell players how to fix the item in case they pick it up before it can be restored, e.g. [Drop to Fix Item] gm4_zauber_cauldrons:crystal/instant_damage/v0. This field is used for name-based restoration and not strictly required if only texture-based restoration is used. When SkullOwner.Name is present on a to-be-restored minecraft:player_head item, this restoration method takes priority over the texture method..
  • value:'TEXTURE_DATA' is the base64 encoded URL of the texture data of the player head. This field is used for texture-based restoration if no SkullOwner.Name tag is present on a to-be-restored minecraft:player_head item. This entry is not required if only name-based restoration is used. On the item this data is usually located at tag.SkullOwner.Properties.textures[0].Value.
  • item:{<ITEM NBT>} is used to specify the fixed NBT state the item should be returned to. <ITEM NBT> should be a raw NBT compound as it is found in the item's tag NBT, without the SkullOwner tag (not required as name and texture of player heads are conserved through placing and breaking). One must be careful when specifying this NBT as a discrepancy between the raw NBT compound provided and the original NBT of the item (for example from a loot table) will lead to undesired stacking issues. Notably, text components such as those present in display.Name or display.Lore may have an unexpected order if generated from a loot table, so you should be careful to replicate that order when registering your item with this library. A common way to achieve this is to generate the NBT compount by spawning-in the item using the item creation method your data pack uses (e.g. a loot table) and then getting the data from the game output.

You may provide value, name, or both, but whenever possible it is best to provide only name so that multiple unique items may share a texture without ambiguity.


Depending on your use case you may want to version or not version your register entry's id and name and (optionally) loot_table fields. Versioning will only work if both id and name are versioned (unless you are using value instead of name, in which vase versioning id is sufficient). Versioning is absolutely required if you:

  • use texture based identification (i.e. if you use value) and plan on changing the texture in the future
  • use name based identification (i.e. if you use name) and plan on changing the name in the future

Versioning can make lib_player_heads restore player heads to their original state even when newer versions of the item are also present in the register. For example, if your data pack implements a beach ball player head custom item but after a couple of versions you decide that your beach ball should have the lore 'Bouncy!' and change your data pack accordingly, also adding a new head register entry with a bumped version and the new NBT data, old beach balls will still be restored to the version without lore, whilst new items will be restored to the version with lore.

Without versioning you can use lib_player_heads as a somewhat limited upgrade path for items. Returning to the beach ball example from above, without versioning all beach balls would be upgraded to the version with lore upon placing and breaking. Importantly, the existing head register must be removed and then re-added including the new NBT data by your updated data pack. This can be achieved using the following commands:

data remove storage gm4_player_heads:register heads[{id:'NAMESPACED_IDENTIFIER_FOR_SKULL'}]
execute unless data storage gm4_player_heads:register heads[{id:'NAMESPACED_IDENTIFIER_FOR_SKULL'}] run data modify storage gm4_player_heads:register heads append value {id:'NAMESPACED_IDENTIFIER_FOR_SKULL',value:'TEXTURE_DATA',name:'UNIQUE_SKULL_OWNER_NAME',item:{<ITEM NBT>}}

When using loot_table instead of item (see below) you may version your loot tables to ensure proper restoration of old items or not version your loot table to always update player heads to their latest version. In the latter case versioning is practically disabled so if using unversioned loot tables it is recommended to also use unversioned id.

Dynamic Restores

Instead of specifying item you may specify loot_table, which contains a loot table resource location as a string (e.g. 'gm4_zauber_cauldrons:item/crystal/instant_health_v0'). This should either be the loot table which is used to obtain the item in the first place. If both item and loot_table are specified, loot_table will take priority in versions of this library that support it. For backwards compatibility with older versions of this library you may therefore define both item and loot_table.

However, the dynamic restore functionality should only be used as a last resort, as it comes with some downsides. Notably, all information except for the texture and the name of the player head is lost upon placing it down, so it is still impossible to store any useful information on the player head only. Additionally, player heads which use this dynamic data restore will not restore correctly if the corresponding data pack is uninstalled. The dynamic restore system was specifically implemented to allow for unstackable player heads via attributes and should be limited to this or related use cases.

More on Updating Player Heads

It can easily happen that, when updating your data pack, the data which your player heads should be restored to changes. This section will offer some guidelines on how this should be handled with lib_player_heads.

Case A: Texture Changes

You're changing the name (SkullOwner.Name) or texture (tag.SkullOwner.Properties.textures[0].Value) of the player head. In this case you should create a new entry in the head register for your updated player head, with an increased version number compared to the previous entry. You can remove the register command (not the register entry, just the command adding that entry) for the previous version as worlds running the older version of your data pack will already have that version of the player head added to their head register.

Case B: Data Changes

You're changing item data (e.g. your player head should now have {foo:'bar'} instead of {food:1b}). In general it should be noted that the head register is meant as permanent storage, and editing existing entries is discouraged. lib_player_heads is primarily a library which restores player head items to a set state, not necessarily an upgrade path.

Nevertheless, if you are not versioning your head register entries you can use this library as a -- somewhat manual -- upgrade path: If you're not making name or texture changes (compare to Case A) you can simply edit the item raw NBT or the loot table your entry was pointing at in-place. If you are also making name or texture changes you must create a new head register entry corresponding to the new name or texture, see Case A.

Case C: Preserve Old Items

This is the default case if you are using the item restore source; old versions of player heads will always be restored to their fixed raw NBT in the head register. Editing this NBT in existing entries is discouraged. If you are using the loot_table restore source some care must be taken to achieve this behavior: When adding the entry for the new version of your player head to the register you must point it at a new loot table and keep the old loot table around to prevent item loss when restoring old player heads.

Example Pack

For more examples, see the provided example_use. Please note that the example_pack must be started by calling #load:load, as a [proper load implementation](Lantern Load) is not included. The provided loot table gm4_example_pack:example_head_1 in example_pack is NOT required.

Technical Details

  • All player head data is stored in storage at gm4_player_heads:register.
  • minecraft:player_head items on the ground are only processed if they do not have a Item.tag.display NBT compound.


This library, and the contents of the lib_player_heads directory on the github repository, is licensed under the MIT License.


  1. For more advanced uses lib_player_heads does provide a way to restore player heads to a dynamic NBT state from a loot table, refer to this section.

  2. Not versioning your entries drastically changes how the library functions, refer to this section for details.


Copyright © 2023 Smithed
Not an official Minecraft product. Not approved by or associated with Mojang Studios