Send them against heavily armored things and you'll see the difference.
I have... as GM, since my players are the ones that tend to be heavily armored ^_^. Problem is, they also have around a hundred hit points, so... well, the xbowers shoot once, plink them (if they hit at all, that is) and then die messily.
Also, a long bow with armor piercing standard arrows have AP6, which tend to be more than enough for that.
As I see it, with a crosbow you can use:
The only feats you can use with a bow that you can't use out of the box with a crossbow are Angry Hornet and Blackened Skies.
As mentioned you forgot Quick Draw. Also, Haste and Surge of Speed contribute. There's a number of routines that will let you fire a Hand Crossbow (or a pair of them) multiple times a round or a regular crossbow once a round. It's even possible to fire a Heavy Crossbow once a round for a number of rounds.
All contribute, true. Those are also feats that you have to take to shoot maybe once per turn instead of the feats you could have taken to shoot better
twice, probably more each turn
with a bow.
So, apparently a feat tax for having the gall of liking a crossbow better than a bow. Not optimal, TBH.
Plus, I agree that an upgrade reducing load by two is feasible. Same with an Essence that reduces Load by 2 and a Greater Essence that reduces it by 4. I also wouldn't allow telescopic scopes to be used on a normal crossbow.
That would be nice as a customization, but as essences... well, same as always: I would be taking a magical effect to reduce the drawback of the xbow instead of taking a magical effect to add to the potential of a bow (like a Feat, although there aren't too many essences really useful for ranged weapons)
Are you tracking ammo? Also, all of those arrows down range only matter if the archer can hit or overcome the target's armor.
Yes, we are... but the PCs have one of those bags of holding (Eberron campaign, it eemed wrong to take it away).
As for the other... well, yes, but you have to hit with the xbow, too, you know. The armor argument is valid, of course. It feels a bit too situational, though.
They need the AP, Range, or Threat advantage? They need a free hand? They need to be able to use it while prone?
So, you're agreeing that it is a very situational weapon, then? And that in other circunstances, you'll be better off with other one?
I mean, all those are true, up to a point (AP is only true for light and heavy xbow, the range is nice [although strange; I though that bows had better range than crossbows], Threat is only true for the heavy one, Free hand is only true for the hand crossbow [That don't have range, Threat or AP advantages], and you can shoot a Foot bow while Prone...), but very situational.
I don't know, it just feels that a PC (that, by definition, is going to have to face very varied oppositions and situations) is almost always better off with some kind of regular bow, and will be able to use his/her feat options in Feats that enhance their shooting instead than in Feats to be able to shoot once every turn.
I also think that had we kept the Brace action and allowed it only for black powder and crossbows this would have helped.
Afraid I can't really talk about that, as I don't know what it is ^^