Would be awesome to see the Forge take off again with some of the new modelers coming through! As someone with a pretty wide skillset I think you'd have a good time there, being able to pick up whatever claims interest you from all of the different projects.
I'm not sure the nvidia plugin works with CC, CS6 is the last version I've used it with. An alternative (and better) way to save dds is Compressonator: http://gpuopen.com/gaming-product/compressonator/
I think the problem is that your layer stack view is on diffuse but your fill is set to color. Which preset is that? I always use the PBR-HQ preset since it works the best with generic PBR materials. Doing it that way, the 'base color' channel is your diffuse, after you add lighting.
Your fill layer thumbnails look 100% transparent, see how mine are showing the filled image? Are you definitely selecting the baked image as the input? The bake settings look OK. I would generally recommend using a cage to get the best bake possible but it's not 100% necessary.
Here is a screengrab from my standard AO/Curvature setup:
1. add a new fill layer (paint bucket), select the color channel 2. select the map you want to fill with from the 'base color' button, under the material rollout 3. set 'UV Scale' to 1, otherwise it won't match your UVs 4. change the blending mode, opacity . A related trick with getting a good AO shadow from your bake is to increase the number of rays to ~300. Otherwise I find the shadows quite weak.
A big improvement! Now you see it's all about using the baked maps to get more visual information, generators are an efficient way to make masks based on the baked maps. Another way to add some information that's mostly useful for non-PBR assets (like skyrim) is to add some lighting information from the AO and curvature maps. Try making a fill layer with the AO set to multiply and make sure the tiling is 1 (default is 3). Play with the opacity a little until it looks natural. Do the same with the curvature, but set the blending mode to soft light or overlay, the opacity on this will look best probably around 30% or so.