Mending Law of Demeter Issues with Refactoring Tools

This learning hour introduces the Law of Demeter and some concrete techniques for tackling code that breaks it.

Session outline

Connect - Recognize these smells?

Put descriptions of these three code smells around the room or on a shared online whiteboard. Have people form pairs and go around and read them. If they recognize the smell, and have experienced it in their work, put a “nose” sticker next to it. Give them a pile of nose stickers or brightly coloured postit notes.

You’re hoping that people recognize all of these, especially the last one, since that’s what this learning hour is mostly about.

Concept - Law of Demeter

Explain what this is and why it’s a problem. You might like to summarize it as “talk to your friends, not your friend’s friends”, or “avoid train wrecks”.

Put the code sample below on a shared screen. It’s from the FantasyBattle-Refactoring-Kata. Get some “train” stickers or similar. Ask them where you should put the stickers in the code to show where it’s breaking the Law of Demeter.

private int CalculateBaseDamage() {
        Equipment equipment = Inventory.Equipment;
        Item leftHand = equipment.LeftHand;
        Item rightHand = equipment.RightHand;
        Item head = equipment.Head;
        Item feet = equipment.Feet;
        Item chest = equipment.Chest;
        return leftHand.BaseDamage +
               rightHand.BaseDamage +
               head.BaseDamage +
               feet.BaseDamage +

You should end up with stickers on almost every line. This should lead you directly into the demo where you show how to do Introduce - Extract - Move to fix the problem.

The essence of the demo is to refactor the method CalculateBaseDamage to follow the Law of Demeter. Introduce a variable for Inventory, Extract method on all the rest of the method, so you get a new method with one argument, inventory. Then Move the method to Inventory. Now in class Inventory you do basically the same thing again. Extract all the method contents so you get a new method with one argument - equipment - then Move that method to Equipment.

The refactoring sequence is:

Note there are no test cases in the default branch so it’s important to know your tools are good enough to do these refactorings for you, or that you are following the refactoring steps strictly.

Concrete - Fix the Player class

As with the demo, remove the Law of Demeter problems in the Player class by creating new methods and moving them to Inventory and Equipment. When you’ve completed that, similarly refactor the other method “CalculateDamageModifier”. That one is almost the same except you have to handle the strengthModifier too.

When you’ve completed the refactoring, you should not be able to find any Law of Demeter problems in any of the classes, and all the methods will have good names that express what they do.


Write an important takeaway. How will what you learned today change how you code in the future?