What to do with this one?
Have you utterly sent the wrong message to the players? Have your players misinterpreted a message and decided to play another game?
As a DM, this is frustrating because usually a message, especially a written message is supposed to be super clear, totally unambiguous.
My last campaign died of COVID-19. We have no particular plans to start up again. But it was suffering from a horribly ambiguous statement I made. I gave the characters a note which said they were to receive 5,000 pounds silver. I actually wrote it down for them.
This one was special, I cribbed it from history. I pieced together details from a couple of manuscript and books on the death of William the Conqueror. The oldest son, Richard received all of Normandy and the William Rufus, the middle son received the Throne of England,
"...while Henry received five thousand pounds in silver, which he hastened to secure, having it carefully weighed out to make certain that none of his appanage was denied him."
So Henry ran off to count his money. These documents have a biting edge that amused me and I thought that it would amuse the players to see something like this.
William the Conqueror left these funds to Henry so he could purchase his own lands... but only left Henry enough silver to purchase about 1500 acres or 2.3 miles. So, Richard got Normandy, William Rufus got all of England and Henry got some silver, which is nothing when compared to what his brother's got. Talk about sending a message!
Unfortunately, just like the Chronicle above I forgot to name the purpose of the silver, leaving the party with a ridiculous sum on paper. They were to buy or rent a ship with it. Worse, the way I phrased it, the players never actually got their hands on the physical silver, just a letter from the Emperor promising the silver to whoever was reading it. So, the party could show the letter saying they were to have access to 5,000 pounds silver worth of goods and then nothing... For relatively small purchases, no one would take this letter from the party. The party wrote out an IOU from the Emperor's treasury, which is hysterical when you think about it .
The message of this post is, don't forget the message.