I got on the list to test a private beta of a plugin I'm using on a multisite network.

The plugin authors have code in there to add a custom role. They have a bug that removes the ability to give a user any role except their one custom role.

When I visit ../wp-admin/network/site-users.php, the "Add User" role pulldowns only show the one role this plugin added. The change role pulldown menu shows all the WP default roles, plus a few extra roles this and other plugins have added. If I attempt to change a user to one of these roles, I get a "You can't give users that role" error page.

I've been discussing this with the developer, and they seem baffled.

I've been looking through my database and the codex, and I can't find where the valid roles are defined.

2 Answers 2


User roles are stored in wp_options table.

search for option name wp_user_roles in the wp_options table.

  • 2
    Please note that the option_name may contain your DB prefix instead of wp_. This was the case for my database.
    – Eric K
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 23:02
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    Might also have a blog id if you're on multisite, eg "wp_37_user_roles". Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 13:55
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    Yes, if you're on multisite and have a blog ID, the table AND the option_name would include the blog ID. So use e.g. this query: select * from wp_37_options where option_name = 'wp_37_user_roles'; Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 20:43

User Roles are stored in table wp_user_meta

To check user roles, first, check out the user id in the table wp_users (Column name ID)

Now Go to table wp_usermeta and search where column user_id is equal to the ID that matches ID from wp_users table.

You will get a list of rows with metadata of the chosen user, the row with meta_key as wp_capabilities defines the user role.

The Value of wp_capabilities for

  • Admin : a:1:{s:13:"administrator";b:1;}
  • Woo Commerce Customer : a:1:{s:8:"customer";b:1;}
  • 3
    Your answer relates to the assignment of a role to a user. The OP was asking about the role definitions themselves, which are stored in wp_options. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 3:06
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    that a:1:{s:13:"administrator";b:1;} is kind of a messy string, what's all the fluff numbers around the meat? Commented May 31, 2021 at 13:37
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    @Johnny Rockex That is serialised data a way to store more than one value in a database cell... often frowned upon to an extent, as it can make life more difficult. The "s" stands for "string" (of 13 character) the "b" is for Boolean - Google Data Serialisation in MySQL for details. Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 16:42
  • @mayersdesign I can understand the frowns, my gut would lean towards restructuring the tables to have single values in each field, but who knows, it works. Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 11:22

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