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All tributes made in Age of Empires and Age of Empires II have a 30% tribute tax: if a player sends 100 units of a resource, the recipient will receive 70 units. The tax has two purposes - firstly, it simulates how resources become lost on the way in the real-world due to corruption, bandits, tariffs, etc., and secondly, it discourages players from giving huge amounts of resources to allies without any penalization. There are technologies at the Market which lower or even expunge the tribute tax, such as Coinage and Banking. These technologies do not feature in Age of Empires III.
In the single player campaign and skirmishes, neutral computer players may request resources in exchange for an alliance with the player; allied computer players may also request resources from the player in order to build up their forces. Players in turn may request resources from computers, who generally comply unless they have none to spare.
In multiplayer, the most common use for tribute is to aid more resource-starved team players in bolstering their military or defense. The manual for Age of Empires II also suggests sending tribute to enemy players in order to buy off an impending attack; this is ill-advised as sending tribute to enemies not only makes them stronger but also makes them more likely to attack regardless given the sudden influx of resources at hand. Tributes can also 'resurrect' players who are otherwise out of the game, provided they have Villagers or a Town Center.