There are moments, as a storyteller, that I doubt the necessity of threats to the lives of the PCs. Yes, it is a very easy way to add a palpable sense of terror to a story, to have your protagonists in fear of their lives. But aren't there better ways to create pathos in a game? Or better yet, manifest a sense of ethos amongst passionate PCs.
As a gamer, I crave story and plot. I love clever intrigues, mysteries and hidden secrets. I love to puzzle things out, logically or socially. I love the game of diplomacy, and talking my way out of trouble that my mouth got me into. Now don't get me wrong, I do love to walk into a room with pistols drawn, or beat information out of a witness if the moment strikes and it fits both character and situation. But I think that the threat of PC death can be overused. I never played a lot of D&D, so I really had the experience of multi-character death. Playing WoD, I had a few different characters that lasted through several generations of campaigns, so that was the norm for me.
In the campaign I'm working on now, I find myself leaning away from combat and more towards story. Making the players work together to piece together a mystery, puzzle out the lies from the truth. They have to figure out who their allies really are in a situation where they might be over their heads and caught between the rock and the durasteel.
In counterpoint, I should mention that my plot wedge - that force which pushes the players in the initial direction, involved a rather overt death threat by a criminal empire.