I can help you a little with the curve guide, I get it to work by selecting curve (path works quite well) then going into the force field section and selecting curve guide as its forcefield option. Now if you add a particle system to another object ( say a sphere) and allow the particle to “bump” into the curve you will have those particles interact with the curve (they will try to hug the curve and flow down it), this is especially handy when used with hair as the curve will then drive the hair and allow you to move it (as in animate it!). Hope that helps a little. If I find out more on the force fields Ill post it on here, since its something Im working on myself :
Some other things to look at :
http://blenderdiplom.com - has quite a few tutorials on fire and smoke, along with the whirlwind drum affect that was on youtube a while back, could help you get to understand the vortex and wind force fields.