Yesterday's big Sunday Game was our 19th session of Pathfinder. An enjoyable session spent exploring the southern reaches of a forest, it was the hex-crawl nature of the Kingmaker adventure path that eventually led me to exploring the OSR.
However there was a moment where everyone failed a Will Save against an enchantment effect. Technically? Technically I could have killed them all right there, bit by bit, as the creature really didn't have a ton of offensive ability. If I had killed them it would have been "as the curtains close on our heroes who are never heard from again" rather than making them sit through the damage.
I didn't kill them (although in the ensuing fight I came pretty close to an actual TPK, with the Cavalier and Ranger both down), instead arranging opportunities for them to make an additional save. We ended up with a thrilling, tense fight with certain characters out of the fight for a round here or a round there, and everyone throwing all their available offensive might.
Rather than a Save vs Death, this was a situation where character mortality was on the table where the players had a chance to fight against it, win or lose.
I don't think I gave them the opportunity for The Story. I think I gave them the opportunity because it made a better Game.
Semantics? I don't know. But I have never much enjoyed the Save vs Death that is a factor in early D&D.