What I think would be neat is to have what I call peasant play in a mmorpg.
Basically you have an alt that you can set to be a peasant. It's perhaps alot like monster play in lotro, where you have a monster and playing it gives your hero character extra destiny points.
The peasants top level would be about 10 or so! Level 10 is epic! And they would have perma death (before you moan, c'mon, it's only ten levels lost and peasants can do peasanty stuff at level one, just not as good)! Also other players, when on their hero's, would get bonus points for killing mobs around peasants, so as to rescue them (peasants can fight mobs but aren't designed to - they engage special peasant resouce nodes like animal traps and crops).
The idea is that peasant play for a few minutes every so often would be attractive in terms of resources and it would give a sense, when playing, of how big and dangerous the world is.
Also there could be events where hero's might have the chance of saving many peasants lives. Yeah, granted they may fail and your peasant dies, but again peasants would be able to do their stuff at level one to a certain extent, and level ten wouldn't be hard to achieve at all.