Alright, problem fixed, thanks guys.
It was because of the template whitespace/indents messing up since I was copying from a file into the terminal.
Someone might owe donuts..
npm ERR! Failed to parse json
npm ERR! Unexpected token '<' at 2:1
npm ERR! <<<<<<< HEAD
npm ERR! ^
This is on a clean install?
It was an updated pull from a clean install. I don't do any nodebb hacking - just plugins.
Let me pull a fresh clean