This little post is an attempt to give the quick and dirty on magic in Champions Universe. It's by no means the end all source. If you want that, snag a copy of Mystic World. It's 5e so it's previous edition, but the lore in it is the most current on magic lore and it fills you in on the multiverse. Plus you get to see the 5e look of the champions. I hardly recognized them, except for nighthawk.
The Raw of Magic
Champions Universe was designed to be rather accommodating to any level of character creation madness. The intricate details on how magic works has not been heavily covered, all sorts of takes on how to work your wizardry are all fully valid. I've seen a wide range of styles played out in various characters.
Trickiness only ensues if you try to use established stuff that is in the game world. Most specifically the Qliphoth, more on that later, general rule of thumb is you don't want to use it.
Magic was rather weak until sometime in 1938. That heraalded saw a sudden rise in magical power and a growth in superpowered beings. Champions Universe 6E claims that the rise in magic allowed for superpowers to exist. Champions Beyond, claims that superpowers exist because an ancient race of progenitor aliens found the evolving humans and played with their DNA in their pursuit of making a super race of justice. Honestly I like the contradiction, leaves questions in the air, of course they might both be true too...
But back to magic. Magic was weak before 1938 but it did exist. It kind of waned up until the ban put the nail in the coffin. 1938 pried the lid back open. The last few centuries BC lead to a waning of godly power with the growth of ethical religions like buddhism that put emphasis on living an ethically good life over worship and sacrifice to an icon. The Gods were shut out at around the turning of the BC/AD with something known as The Ban. The Ban completely locked the gods out of this world for nearly 2000 years, with the 1938 event the Ban was weakened. Gods now have some access to this world, more on this below.
While magic was weak for a very long time it existed. Vlad Tepes was transformed into Dracula by some accounts an Atlantean Mage did it. Sherlock homes actually encountered him in Champions lore. The most obvious recent display of magic was written off as a comet exploding. The Tunguska Blast in champions lore was the Circle of The Scarlet Moon assassinating the Arch Mage. The last Arch Mage had sided with the Trismegistus council and hindered the Scarlet moon. They retaliated with a rather nasty ritual that blew up a lot of wilderness and the arch-mage. Current science believes that it is a comet exploding much like real world science does. The Scarlet moon was never able to capitalize on the mage's defeat because a lot of the people involved in the ritual were killed with the backlash.
Magic though is an ever changing ballgame in this day and age. Before the leylines and focus of power was in Europe. The power has since shifted towards the US, which has caused mage groups to relocate there. While this is not explicitly stated, I imagine with the sudden growth of magic that everything with spell slinging has turned into a whole new ballgame with every mystic scrambling to update and get ready to use the new power to its fullest. I personally imagine all those new up and coming magical heroes therefore aren't at a heavy disadvantage with any old blood out there in regards to slinging large gobs of pain. Older mystics from before '38 will likely have a lot of experience with working with very little magic and subtly.
There is actually precident in the lore of magi who swap their known spells by consulting books. Also there's things so darn powerful with magic ability they just bend the cosmic laws without so much as a wink. Any style is really possible.
The champions multiverse is divided into planes arranged in the kabbalah tree of sephiroth. You can actually look it up since it's a take on mysticism that actually was followed in the real world. Here's what it looks like kinda. Now, each circle of that tree is not a plane. It is a family of planes. The lowest level Malkuth. Any world like our own that is not composed of magic or built around widescale magic use falls in this category. It's a material world. As you go up from Malkuth everything becomes increasingly abstract and magical. Kether the top is the source of all existance and being that cascades down the levels to Malkuth, and then pours down the drain of anti-creation known as Qliphoth which exists below the Sephorith as a dark shadow of it. One can not comprehend the highest levels. At Keth you become aware of all, see all, and are in fact all simultaneously, it is something no mortal mind could comprehend. Yesod, however, one step up fro Malkuth has places like the Faerie Realm, something easily comprehended by a human (though can be quite deadly in its own ways).
It is important to know NO list of planes is exhaustive. You can easily make up just about any plane of any level and stuff it in where you see it fits best. And assuming no other plane fits that niche you're good to go. Planar creation is plug and play and modular. Also it's of note that mystics are constantly bickering over where certain planes may fit in the diagram. There's no hard and set way of knowing. It's kind of scientific classification of animals by species in that the darn chart keeps changing.
Yesod style planes are the ones nearest to earth and known as the imaginereal realms. They are echoes of beliefs and concepts. There's plenty of them, but the big ones are Elysium, Nether, Dreamzone, the Faerie Realm (also known as the Land of Legends), and Babylon.
You have Angelic heavenly stuff within Elysium. All heavens exist here. All angel lore exists here. Each style of belief has its own region within Elysium. This place can be quite hazardous if you dog into angel lore you'll find some really freaky stuff, and some of them might wish to push you for defiling the sacred soil of Elysium with your imperfect mortal feet. It's can be a scary unforgiving place.
Nether has every hell imagineable. It even has a personal hell for every single person. Demons from every religion exist here. If you go to nether via deliberate travel you'll first end up in the hell that most matches your general ethical beliefs. Enough travel can get you to any hell you desire. Naughty souls can end up here, they are effectively immortal. The demons exploit that fact to torment and punish them over and over. The demons will trade souls as a commodity. They actually eat souls, which destroys the soul in question. You can not permenantly destroy a demon without some very extreme measures. A particularly disobedient demon might be punish by being made into a meal, which also destroys the demon as if it were a soul. So yes, you can very easily end up with demon trying to deal for your soul. The supreme evil embodies the nether. It is known as The Dragon. The Dragon is miles long and its throat forms the portal to Nether, it's currently chained down with chains forged from the virtue of mankind.
The dreamzone is where all dreaming happens. When you go to sleep a pocket with your dream opens up and you live it out there. It's filled with dream pockets. The Dragon silently watches this realm from its prison.
The Faerie Realm, also known as the land of legends is where all those faeries from folk lore exist. It's also where every pantheon that has ever existed resides. Each pantheon has its own domain styled after itself. The gods used to keep a closed door policy in relation to each other. In the wake of the ban they banded together believed in each other and lived off stored power. Like other settings, gods feed off belief. With the loss of belief several pantheons were harmed, but even in their weakened state they can easily slap aside a human in their home ground. With the increased inter-pantheon contact between gods there has been some intermingling and the possible birth of some godlings. Nascent godlings are about as tough as a superhuman. They aren't really cataloged in the lore so as to give possible open threads for character creation. But as always exercise caution when using divine influences in making a character. The Faerie sits on top of The Dragon's back.
Babylon embodies human drive and accomplishment. Every city from every civilization is cramed together in a massive mishmosh of city that makes up this dimension. Babylon used to be a rather small and weak dimension. However with the sudden growth of civilization within the last few hundred years, babylon has reached epic heights. Agents from the other big planes such as Eyslium, Nether, and Faerie, are all trying to influence Babylon politics through shadowy games and swing it over to their side, especially Nether and Eyslium, if Babylon sided either it would definitely tip the balance of power betwene heaven and hell. Babylon's menaces and beings tend to have a technological flaire. There's a problem of packs of feral cars for example. The newest mystical beings are coming to life in this realm known as the conurbites. Conurbites are a counterpart to elves from the faerie realm. They look mostly human but sport a cybernetic flaire or have skin that looks synthetic. They live glamorous lives of consumer ideals. Conurbites, like faeries have innate magical abilities, usually based on reshaping materials. They also tend to have a special attack focused around an appliance. Like one might be able to turn his arm into a chainsaw. Another one might be able to form a singing curling iron from his body. Money is power in babylon. Your ATM card will be useful. Any money you withdraw in Babylon will look like monopoly money versions of real currency, or freshly minted versions of antique currency. You will find all currencies represented. Money represents power in babylon, and money brought over from the real world is REALLY powerful and has 4X the buying power. However throwing it around is frowned upon. An upstanding citizen will point someone with such stuff to a bank where they can get it changed for proper currency. A disreputable party might lie about the value and attempt to get as much of it as possible, assuming they don't outright mug the obviously ignorant new travel. Babylon has a subway line that goes to Nether, and an escalator that goes the Eyslium (hey that's a form of stairway isn't it?).
There are lesser planes too, like yggdrasil, the gestalt plane of all plant consciousness. Plants don't have much consciousness persay, but there's so many of them they are all encompassing. Plants don't percieve the world the same way we do. Plants view all organic matter as possible compost. Their roots consume all. Anyone who visits yggdrasil will get heir mind blasted by incomprehensible thoughts as their spirit is consumed by innumerable plant spirits. It's generally avoided.
Blood tide is the plane of animal consciousness. It won't obliterate you instantly like yggdrasil, but the law of the jungle rules here, it will chew you up if you aren't careful.
The burning sky is a dimension of fire, from which certain magic spells pull their flames from.
Next step up from yesod is Hod and Netzach planes. Hod planes run on magical rules completely unrelated to anything earthly. Netzach planes run under the control of some consciousness that runs the whole affair known as a dominion. Further up the tree it gets increasingly bizarre and abstract and visitors don't really see it so much as percieve it in a fashion their minds can comprehend.
The shadow of the tree of life, the Qliphoth is uncreation personified. It is not good, it is not evil, it is hungry, you are food. It calls out more towards the call of Cthulhu styled stuff. Thundrax put it best when he described trying to harness it as “Having Cthulhu as a pet with all the hassle.” The book Mystic World describes mages who study the tree of death as tending to “die messily” or developing a “sick fascination with destruction and death.” The anti-kether to the tree of death is Solipsist. Those who manage to get there somehow instead of becoming all existance would achieve utter non-existance, complete and total obliteration. The closest anyone could realistically get is Quemetiel, which is a maelstrom of now dead cosmic beings that mindlessly sucks in and obliterates anything that gets too close. It is the magical equivilent of a black hole.
It is a realm filled with shining darkness instead of light. Any light sources have all their power ripped from it before exploding. People exposed to it grow increasingly more corrupted until they are utterly destroyed and replaced with a qliphothic version. If someone returns to earth before the transformation is complete they will ooze shadow as if it were light and it would be akin to a radioactive disaster, except magical.
Those who use qliphothic power tend to die. They are described in lore as becoming rather cancerous and sickly, hair falling out, pleasant stuff like that. It devours you as you use it. Those who manage to master it only do so through the lost of a lot of lives. Shadow Destroyer sacrificed the entire city of Multifarian Detroit. Luther Black lived on life support in a magically hidden 13th floor of some Las Vegas hotel. Morbanes within DEMON who became a problem were sent to Luther who would then consume their life force causing their body to waste away gradually in a horrific fashion.
Therefore, if you have something that uses the Qliphoth as a power source, then either that character is going to die might take a few months but they are a doomed soul, or that character is lives to the Qliphoth. Even then, it will turn on you, look at Shadow Destroyer in the end of resistance. Luther Black did not fare much better either.
To put into perspective how dangerous this thing is look at the dimension of Loezon, a Malkuth world like our own, but it is doomed. It was a high magic world where they probed the multiverse, collected beasts from every dimension as prizes and a qliphothic entity got loose. It got into their sun. That was many years ago. Currently their sun is a sickly pale green thing nigh indistinguishable from their stars. Special megaliths all ove rthe planet keep it from freezing. The Qliphothic entity sits in the sun eating it growing in it like some unholy womb. It has utterly devoured the astral realm of Leozon. All gods had to build their own little fortified pocket dimensions and hide in them. If you die in Leozon your soul is sucked into the sun where it is devoured by the qliphothic entity. The only way to have an afterlife is to be in the good graces of a god, who will pull you into his pocket realm upon death. Loezon is what happens if you make light of the Qliphoth.
Incidentally, demons HATE the Qliphoth. It's a good way to get utterly obliterated and immortal evil things would rather not be obliterated and corrupted to something else. DEMON may bind demons and force them to work in conditions involving Qliphothic matters, they really do not like that.
So gods exist. All the gods exist. There are new children god too which are largely undefined. However, The Ban, though weakened also still exists. A god may get around the ban in three ways, empowering a mortal, making an avatar, or siring a child. An avatar may be of any strength. But it drains the god's reserve of power. The more powerful an avatar the shorter lived it is. An avatar roughly the strength of a superhuman may last indefinitely. When forming an avatar a god is in a trance much like a projecting mage. Dionysus, for example has an avatar who is a vastly popular musician known as “Dion Bach”. Debauchery and hedonism rules his concerts, and all who buy a CD end up giving him worship, and largely the world just thinks he's a very popular musician and not a god. Empowering a mortal allows a god to influence matters with their power in the mortal realm again theyare limited on how much power they can lend, but such empowered mortals can act on their own, and therefore don't leave the god in a trance and allow the god to multitask better. Having half-mortal children allows the child to stay on earth indefinitely, have super powers, and not cost the god anything outside of the usual song and dance that goes with having a child. Of course such offspring do have free will despite being their parent's child.
Gods have varying responses to how things have gone recently with the Ban. Some feel betrayed and wish vengeance on mortality wish to make them know fear. The Circle of the Scarlet moon prefers to deal with such gods. Beings like that are less likely to ask for souls in their deals like a demon and less likely to try to catch you in a twisted bargain. Some gods persevered and see this as a call to champion their cause harder to humanity and win back followers and power now that The Ban is starting to lift. One thing is for certain. The godly domains are rather shaken up as of late.
Arch Demons, Angels, and Saints, though not part of the Faerie Realm are essentially gods as well. They operate on all the constraints listed above. So any Christian Saint, any Arch-Angel any Demon may operate under the same rules as listed above.
There's a few magical societies. They tend to operate in the shadows when they can. Some big ones are The Circle of the Scarlet Moon, The Trismegistus Council, and DEMON.
DEMON is the most organized like a sinister organization like VIPER. They have mages out scouring for artifacts they do all sorts of wicked stuff. The deep dark secret is the upper enchelons are trying to get Qliphothic power. Since this became more apparent in recent years most every other magical community really really really does not like DEMON. Nobody likes DEMON. DEMON and VIPER have a whole lot of bad blood between them. Luther Black attempted his apotheosis once before the events of Demon Flame, and VIPER's patron god realized just how bad this would be to the world and forced the organization to band together under a single banner of saving the world from Qliphothic obliteration. Due to a lot of warring with DEMON, VIPER in the US really distrusts and dislikes magic.
The Circle is far more subtle. It was founded back when magic was weak in order to control the world through the use of magic. The members of the Circle are more or less magical organized crime. They use code-names between each other to help preserve their true identities. They use a lot of cloak and dagger. They all tend to be in positions of power. An example Circle member was a politician who had mastered 2 spells. One caused a person immense pain via a voodoo doll. The other caused him to see a moment of indiscretion of someone when he burns a personal item of theirs. He'd use the later to find dirt on people, confirm that dirt and then blackmail them to heighten his own political power. Anyone who got too troublesome he'd wait for them to get in a situation where a sudden sharp pain would cause a deadly accident and then he'd use the other spell, their deaths would appear to be due to accident or misfortune instead of magic. The Circle doesn't want to summon any demonlords or cause an apocalypse or anything. They just wish for money and power. Any Circle caught using the Qliphoth is executed on the spot.
The Council was founded to counter the circle. Like the Circle they operate in secret and try to hide the full scope of their power. They've been engaged in a shadow war with the Circle for over a century. They view costume wearing heroes as yahoos. They tend to treat them like mushrooms, feed them a lot of shit and keep them in the dark while they use them as cats paws to further heir own ends. The Council's aims are good natured, stop the dark influence of the Circle, but they can be a bit ends justifying the means.