Player vs. Player gameplay has undergone a drastic change in recent years. Games like Meridian 59 and Ultima Online didn't pull any punches. Anyone could kill anyone anywhere, and the penalties could be quite severe. When you died In Meridian or UO, you dropped all of your gear. The person who killed you could steal whatever he or she pleased.
Of course, in games like that, gear wasn't quite such a big deal. In Meridian a sword would wear out after a few of hours of use anyway. But combined with stat and skill losses, death in the games of the 90s was comparatively harsh. Now, in World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, and Warhammer Online, the stakes are lower. You have absolutely nothing to lose by dying in PvP in WoW, and AoC and WAR's designs aren't much more aggressive.
But here's a question from a veteran of the oldschool: with stakes this low, does PvP really matter? Will it really get you sweating? Will you really care that much about winning or losing? Some oldschool folks will argue that PvP is boring and meaningless now that death has been de-clawed. Maybe we should go back to the barbarism of the old days. What do you think?