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Griefing

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Griefing is the act of irritating and angering Players (usually on multiplayer servers) using methods such as destruction, social engineering, and trolling.

Overview

Examples of griefing include: destruction of structures built, owned, or both by other players, stealing other players' items, and repeated killing of less well equipped players. Many servers use plugins such as PlotMe or WorldGuard to allow players to protect their creations. Such systems are rarely fool-proof, but provide protection against all but the most determined attacker. Even if a server does have a plugin to protect land, some people do not claim land and get greifed.

Griefing is not always banned on servers. On some, mainly faction servers, it is the 'status quo', and if this sort of gameplay is not to your liking, these servers are not a good choice.

If you haven't already, check whether the server you're playing on has any or updated protection. A good thing to check for is whether the server has rules against such behavior. In such cases, if you do get griefed, you may be able to claim some sort of compensation for your loss.

Examples of Griefing

Destruction Self-explanatory. Most griefers' goals are to destroy as much land, buildings and creations as they can in order to make the server as destroyed and unusable as possible. This can include Creative "nuking", where users can instantly destroy all blocks in reach, or "torch nuking" when the griefer destroys only torches (many hacked clients have these as built in features). A more time-consuming and generally expensive method of griefing is creation of TNT cannons to bombard other players' creations from a safe distance. In very rare cases, they will cut out a fairly large chunk of your house, usually in a square, and fill it with water, to make it harder for you to re-build it.

Another approach is to pack every open space in a house with TNT and light it.

This can be avoided with block and chunk protection plugins if you are using Bukkit. Logging/Rollback plugins can completely undo the damage done by individual griefers. Restricting TNT will render cannons worthless.
Creation Nearly as frequently as simple destruction of servers, griefers also often attempt to create offensive structures such as swastikas, and nude or offensive pixel art. Also, cages around players that are AFK are built, often of materials unable to mine with tools obtained early on, like obsidian. Sometimes players even surround other players' structures with obsidian, bedrock (if in Creative mode), and sand or gravel (the latter two are annoying due to their falling properties). Logging/Rollback plugins if you have chosen to use Bukkit can completely undo the damage done by individual griefers.
Chat Spamming Chat spam is simply typing large amounts of messages in chat and sending them, often randomly. The result of this can be server lag, which thus makes chat spam more of an annoyance rather than vandalism. Stopping chat spam is relatively easy with spam protection plugins, of which there are a variety on Bukkit.
AbusiveMobSpawning This form of griefing is spawning mobs to the point that the server lags, which if lagged enough, can corrupt the map and render it unusable. If the spawned mobs are hostile, then they can be especially destructive on PvP servers. Creepers, Withers, and "endermobs" (Endermen and the Ender Dragon) are even more destructive as they can move and destroy blocks. Spawn eggs made this even more of a problem.

In some case griefers use so called chicken cores to lag server since seeds are easy to get with nuking. They put very manychickens in a 2x2 pen with hoppers to get eggs and mostly throwing them in other houses or sometimes they turn the farm into a lag beacon.

The /killall command can easily dispatch of the spawned mobs (though one must watch out; it does destroy Minecarts, Boats, Item Frames and Paintings). You can get the command through various Bukkit plugins. To prevent it altogether, there are plugins stopping mobs from spawning.
Lava/WaterFlooding If able, griefers often will attempt to place as much lava (preferable because of its killing properties) and water around a map in order to make it as ugly and dangerous as possible. Rarely, water and lava can be used in conjunction to create massive amounts of cobblestone, or even rarer, obsidian, very quickly. The best way to prevent this from happening is to simply limit who is able to place lava or water using a Bukkit plugin. If the damage has already been done, the best way to remove it is with world editing plugins.
Spawn Killing On servers with PvP enabled, some players will take advantage of this to kill legitimate players as they spawn (because the spawn point/area is predictable). The use of client modifications such as "Kill Aura" is frequently used to give the griefer a large advantage. The most effective way at preventing this is to disable PvP in the spawn area with Bukkit plugins and provide multiple exits for newly spawned players to escape from (a single exit point is very predictable).
TreeCreation For a long time, block logging plugins did not have the ability to roll back the growth of trees. Because of this, many griefers will place saplings and use bonemeal (if available) to grow full trees in the locations where houses once stood, preventing rollbacks from easily undoing their damage. Previously, server admins would restrict the use of saplings and bonemeal with Bukkit permissions, however that lead to problems for normal players. Luckily, Bukkit logging/rollback plugins are now able to track and undo player-grown trees.
FireDestruction Most builders use a lot of flammable materials, and if the server has fire spread enabled, a griefer armed with a Flint and Steel can destroy a lot, very quickly, including setting themselves on fire. Fire was nerfed in Beta 1.6 and currently does much less damage than it once had. However, this can still burn a large chunk of flammable objects. Disable fire spread with world protection plugins if you have chosen to use Bukkit, or use /gamerule doFireTick false
Social Engineering Social Engineering is any technique used as an attempt to gain the trust of people by acting as a normal player or creating a situation where the legitimate players need to trust them. A common trick that griefers use is pretending to be from popular Minecraft websites, or popular Minecraft teams/clans and asking for OP status in order to "review" the server. This is not a typical form of destruction griefing, however this is a strategy employed by many griefers to gain trust and cause rage, or it may be done to get OP status, and cause great destruction. Be very careful who gets administrator tools, make sure that you know them well enough to trust them with power.
Trolling Trolls like to annoy people, rather than grief. There are several ways to troll, such as killing a person and then watching while you throw their diamond pickaxe into lava, spamming, and promising to give them stuff, giving them the stuff, then killing them the moment they go out of a safe zone. Most of these cannot be blocked, though they are usually easy to notice. A troll always wants you to see what he or she has done so he or she could annoy you more. A good temp ban will solve things. But a lot of Trollers will stop after a firm warning, for example "stop trolling or i will ban you" normally is as effective as a ban. Most times, you only need to ban the person for a day.
MapCorrupting A relatively rare form of griefing, map corrupting is simply making the map file as big as possible, usually by running as far as they can. This can lead to a lot of lag in the server, and can make the map size so big that it cannot be loaded. If a backup is not available, then the map may need to be deleted and all structures will be lost. This was a large issue before the Beta switch to a new chunk managing method. Some Bukkit plugins can limit the size of a map, and some make automatic saves/backups of the file.
Combat Logging Combat logging is mostly a problem on PvP servers. Combat logging is when you're in combat with someone and they log off while you're fighting them. It does not inflict harm, but like trolling, just annoys people and causes frustration. Sometimes PvP logging is the sign of a desperate player trying to stay alive. Some Bukkit plugins can "tag" people when they get hit whilst in combat, which will create a penalty if they log out.
Lag Generation Item drops, redstone, minecarts, and boats have a long history of causing strain on servers and clients. A griefer may attempt to lag out a certain area of the map by placing a lot of the aforementioned items into a small area, forcing both server and client to handle a lot of different things at once. This form of griefing is especially prevalent in creative servers where obtaining these lag-inducing blocks is incredibly easy. If you are using Bukkit, you can limit creation placement of certain blocks that have a tendency to cause lag and research plugins that will remove item drops on a regular basis.
Illusion Grief A socialized form of griefing where multiple people grief and then blame it on one of their alternative accounts so they can escape a ban most of the times. This screen of deception can get alternate accounts or even innocent people who tricked in banned while letting the real griefers continue their rampage. This form of griefing is becoming more popular with the rise of 'cracked' servers and the ability to create many alternate accounts. To prevent this, watch very closely if the stories of the suspected griefer and the blamer match. If they do, it's most likely your dealing with an illusion grief attempt. Some Bukkit logging/rollback plugins (such as Core Protect inspector) can tell you who actually did it, and you will be able to treat them as you please.
Name changing Some griefers change their names if they are banned to join the server again. This is a nuisance because they get to return to the server and troll again, and makes bans ineffectual. Make sure online-mode is set to true in server.properties, so users can only connect using a purchased Minecraft account name.

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