You lift the lid of the iron bound chest, but all you find inside is a crumpled piece of parchment..
Disappointment is a part of day to day life, and it plays a large part in our overall development. The way in which that disappointment is dealt with however is what forms who we are.
In my workshops I introduce a fair number of "dead ends" for the participants to encounter, however I always try to suggest to them that there is often another way of approaching the realisation that things didn't go their way.
A crumpled piece of parchment instead of silver and gold, true opportunity instead of an imaginary treasure.
The individual has the option, to either see the lack of immediate fulfilment as deterrent, or as a chance to enhance their journey, initially within the confines of the workshop, but ultimately with experiences they may encounter in day to day living.
The hidden note, the message scrawled on the back of an old book, the carved runes on a cave wall, all of these elements offer an untold wealth in plot and character progression, chances for all concerned to learn from their own and others experience, to view others' interaction, and to gauge the efficacy of the choices they make based on the outcome.
This is not to say that all scenarios have a "way out", in fact some are placed specifically into the narrative to show that sometimes there is no happy resolution, and the consequences are long lasting. The ultimate goal is to ensure the participants have the resilience at that stage ,to view these events not as the end point of an adventure, but as one of many events that lead us to an outcome which we had at least some influence in controlling, and to view adversity as an opportunity to strive, and not as a an impassable barrier.
SO, when you find that ransacked carriage on the side of the road, the burnt village that was raided by goblins, or that empty chest at the end of a long battle, ask yourself, is this the end of the adventure, or is there a set of foot prints leading into the woods, a soft cry for help under a burnt out barn, or a tiny scrap of paper in an old chest, and what are you going to do about it?