Both Admonishing Ray and Boneshaker are 2nd-level spells on the Wizard and Cleric spell lists, and both deal a nice amount of damage. I'm wondering which is better at which levels and in which situations.
Admonishing Ray is Close range, requires no save, and is a Force spell, but deals nonlethal damage and requires a ranged touch attack. It can also eventually spread its targeting to over multiple creatures if desired. As nonlethal damage, it can't hurt undead.
Boneshaker is Medium range, requires no attack roll, deals uncapped lethal untyped damage, and can shift the target 5 feet, but allows a Fort save for half damage and negating the movement. It also has a completely different effect on undead, forcing them to spend an immediate action to move or attack. Furthermore, it requires an inexpensive focus component. Boneshaker appears on more spell lists than Admonishing Ray.
Both spells also scale their damage very differently, and both are affected by Spell Resistance. Both spells have both verbal and somatic components.
Pick spells based on this order:
4) Relative strength
1)With a roleplaying game, there is no best and there is no winning. So pick the spell you like the most.
2)If you are a dexterity based cleric with a big to hit bonus: take the attack roll. Are you an Intelligence based wizard with a low dexterity, than go for the save (reminder, it is easier to buff yourself than to debuff the enemy).
3)If you have a lot of undead in your campaign (like I had with my intimidate build...) you want a build that complements that campaign.
4)Some spells are just stronger than others: shocking grasp is just better than play instrument, both level 1 spells. No way to deny that.
When it comes to these spells: Like I said, depends on your build and campaign mostly. Personally, I would take Boneshaker:
More fluff, more creative uses (pushing people off the ledge), and I think overall more damage (combat control is fun, but if it doesn't take a creature out of the fight, then just kill it).
What is your build at the moment? Or are you just spell shopping for the future?
I'm wondering which is better at which levels and in which situations.
I guess I should have added "with which classes and which types of build" as well.
Currently I'm making a Cleric of Nethys starting at 5th level with more emphasis on support. I kind of wanted to start a comparison of the two spells since they fill a similar niche, though, rather than just asking for my specific character.
There's a lot of good advice. I tend to agree with Yomabo on the versatility front for boneshaker, but, depending on your build (ranged touch attack bonus, feats, or favored spell school) admonishing ray does have the potential to critically hit for double damage with its rays (granted, against the smaller pool of creatures affected by it instead of boneshaker).
If your cleric has a decent charisma then channeling covers anti-undead well enough. Admonishing ray can be spruced up with flavour easily enough, either as a slapdown from your deity or focusing on the telekinetic aspect. And having a nonlethal option in your bag of tricks is useful. I'd most likely go with the ray... but as a cleric you can try both out in your campaign. You can prepare different spells tomorrow if it doesn't work well today.