I run a lot of games where death and serious harm are off the table, and action is an excuse for the players to show off. PC death isn’t generally very interesting to me.
But in those cases I may put in emotional stakes instead, going dramatic (or soapy) with it.
Bought and paid for NPCs like contacts will generally be reliable and safe, but other social and romantic connections might get strained more easily. (This comes through in the Buffy RPG reflecting the show, where combat Qualities and social Drawbacks mean a lot of characters are good in a fight and bad in a relationship.)
Emotional stakes are one example of personalising them as well. I’m not going to actually blow up the planet the game is set on, but I might blow up the PCs’ houses.
Every now and then I will run a game where death and other effects are on the table, but it doesn’t usually go that well. I’ll still tend to pull my punches.